Health Sciences Association of Saskatchewan

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Health Sciences Targets Service Impacts of Under-Staffing

Swift Current (May 13, 2011) – The Health Sciences Association of Saskatchewan says chronic under-staffing by health care employers is risking the safety of many Saskatchewan patients, and forcing many others to wait unacceptable lengths of time to access needed health care services.

“Health care employers and the Wall government will try to deny there is an under-staffing problem among specialized health care professionals in Saskatchewan, but independent research institutes and front-line health care professionals confirm the problem,” Health Sciences President Cathy Dickson said from the picket line set up by striking health care professionals in Swift Current.

“Occupational Therapists are the specialists who work with individuals who have conditions that are mentally, physically and developmentally disabling. Saskatchewan has the lowest number of Occupational Therapists per capita in Canada, as confirmed by the independent Canadian Institute of Health Information (CIHI),” Dickson noted.

“Health care employers are not only failing to hire an adequate number of Occupational Therapists to serve the needs of Saskatchewan patients, they are constantly refusing to call in back up staff when regular therapists are ill or on extended leave. In addition, when an OT position becomes vacant, employers will wait months to fill it. They call this ‘vacancy management’, and it is little more than an effort by health care managers to balance their budgets at the expense of patients and professionals,” Dickson charged.

“As a result, here in the Cypress Health Region rural families with autistic children can wait a year or more to see an Occupational Therapist. Those enrolled in community mental health programs will wait a similar length of time, which means health care services are often not available when people really need them,” Dickson noted.

“Here in the Cypress Health Region as well, senior managers are attempting to reduce their budget by simply refusing to staff ambulance services at a safe level or offer overtime to existing staff. As a result, wait times for an ambulance that used to average fifteen minutes can now take up to forty-five or fifty minutes. This is well above the national standard for safe response times in Rural Saskatchewan,” Dickson said.

“There are similar examples from each of the more than thirty specialized health care professions we represent across the province, and we will continue to focus on these examples as our strike action expands in the days ahead,” Dickson concluded.

For Further Information Contact:

Cathy Dickson (President, Health Sciences)
1-306-361-5655

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