Saskatoon (November 16, 2012) – In the past year, Saskatchewan health regions have cut positions for occupational therapists by nearly 11%, even though waiting lists for many critical services have grown, and Saskatchewan continues to have the lowest number of occupational therapists for its population of all Canadian provinces, the President of the Health Sciences Association of Saskatchewan, Karen Wasylenko, told a Saskatoon news conference.
“Saskatchewan’s population is growing, and the demand for health care services is growing, but our health care employers refuse to increase positions for specialized professionals like occupational therapists. In fact, a recent report, based on information from the health regions themselves, reveals that over the past year, health regions cut 14 full-time and 6 part-time occupational therapy positions. Why did this happen in a year when health region budgets were increased by the provincial government to meet rising demand?” Wasylenko asked.
“The lack of occupational therapists has increased waiting lists for many health care services. For example, there are currently twenty one patients on the wait list for Rehab Day Services at City Hospital in Saskatoon. This is the outpatient rehabilitation program for adults with neurological impairments. These patients could be suffering the effects of Spinal Cord Injuries or Acquired Brain Injuries, Stroke, MS, Guillain-Barre Syndrome, and West Nile. All of these patients need urgent follow up care to help with their recovery, but the lack of occupational therapists means growing wait lists. Health regions have to be held more accountable. Why have occupational therapy positions been cut in a time of growing demand?” Wasylenko asked.
“Unfortunately, this is not a new problem. Canada-wide statistics released recently by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), show that last year Saskatchewan had the lowest number of occupational therapists per 100-thousand population among all Canadian provinces for the fifth year in a row! Saskatchewan had 28.4 OTs per 100-thousand residents, well below the national average of 39. Saskatchewan sits well below the other Western Provinces. Manitoba has 44 occupational therapists per 100-thousand residents, Alberta has 40, and British Columbia 38,” Wasylenko noted.
“We urge health regions to restore the positions they have cut, and call on them to lobby hard for the creation of a Saskatchewan-based training program for occupational therapists. Saskatchewan is the only Western Canadian province without a university level training program for this specialized health care profession, which is making it harder than necessary to fill vacant positions, especially in rural and remote areas of the province,” Wasylenko concluded.
Health Sciences is the union that represents more than three-thousand specialized health care professionals from more than thirty health care professions including: Paramedics, Hospital Pharmacists, Respiratory Therapists, Occupational Therapists, Physical Therapists, Speech Language Pathologists, Public Health Inspectors, Psychologists and Social Workers among others.
For Further Information Contact:
Kate Robinson(Communications, Health Sciences Association of Saskatchewan)