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Health Sciences Shows How Chronic Under-Staffing Risks Patient Safety

Regina (April 26, 2011) – Saskatchewan’s chronic under-staffing of specialized health care professionals has created long waiting lists for some health care services, and stretched the limits of patient safety for others, the President of the Health Sciences Association of Saskatchewan, Cathy Dickson said.

“Saskatchewan’s population is growing, and the demand for health care services is growing, but health care employers and the Wall government refuse to adequately staff the specialized health care professionals we represent,” Dickson told a Regina news conference.

Dickson provided a number of examples of how patient safety has been put at risk:

The case of a patient on the wards at Saskatoon’s Royal University Hospital who was taken off a ventilator improperly by non-specialized staff, and was only prevented from going into cardiac arrest when a Respiratory Therapist responded to a Code Blue emergency from one of the hospital’s intensive care units. Unlike most Canadian hospitals, RUH does not designate Respiratory Therapists to solely serve ward patients

The case of the Cypress Health Region, where managers are refusing to hire adequate numbers of EMS staff or to offer overtime to existing staff, which has resulted in wait times for an ambulance that used to average fifteen minutes now taking up to forty-five minutes and beyond

The case of the Regina Qu’Appelle Health Region, which has no Speech Language Pathologists in its long-term care facilities, even though Best Practices Guidelines for stroke victims require victims to be given a swallowing assessment within 24 hours, by a specialized health care professional. Long term care patients who suffer a stroke do not receive this critical assessment in a timely manner

The case of the Saskatoon Health Region where the number of hospital pharmacists was actually cut in 2010, even though region management agreed that pharmacist under-staffing and outdated facilities had contributed to medication errors that caused four infants to become critically ill at Royal University Hospital in Saskatoon last year

“If the Wall government can afford to pay Health Region CEOs as much as $414-thousand a year in salary and bonuses, when is it going to agree to properly staff the specialized health care professions that serve and protect patients, and offer them competitive wages?” Dickson asked.

“We have now been more than two years without a contract. If the Wall government and health care employers do not plan to present a fair and reasonable contract offer, then they should have the courage to submit this contract to independent, third party binding arbitration,” Dickson concluded.

For Further Information Contact:

Cathy Dickson, President, Health Sciences
306-361-5655

Background Documents:
News Conference Statement, President Cathy Dickson
Video of President Cathy Dickson’s News Conference Statement

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