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NDP launches Health Care Solutions Tour

MLAs Vicki Mowat and Matt Love tour various communities seeking local input on healthcare challenges such as: B. the recruitment of specialists.

REGINA – The opposition New Democrats have announced they will be criss-crossing the province seeking input on Saskatchewan’s health problems.

At the legislature on Wednesday, NDP health critic Vicki Mowat and rural and remote health critic Matt Love announced plans to tour the province on a “Health Care Solutions Tour” over the next few months.

The plan calls for the two opposition MLAs to seek input from healthcare professionals, patients and local leaders “who feel their self-developed solutions are being ignored,” Mowat said.

“Our hospitals and the people who work in them are hanging by a thread. And unless we come up with ambitious solutions that are realistic as soon as possible, other provinces will continue to take our health workers.”

The tour is scheduled to begin Thursday with visits to Cupar, Southey and Saskatoon, with Mowat and Love holding meetings there.

They plan to go from there to other communities, including those that have been hit hard by service disruptions in recent months due to staff shortages. The MLAs emphasized that they wanted to meet those who knew what was happening on the ground.

Love reiterated a well-known NDP theme in characterizing the government’s healthcare hiring plan as inadequate “because they refused to consult with the people who have the answers. This aloof government has stopped listening to the people on the frontlines.”

“And that’s exactly why we’re going to be touring the province to hear from healthcare workers, from experts and from local people who know their hospitals and what’s needed to fix it.” If (Premier) Scott Moe doesn’t consult health workers, we will.”

Mowat also reiterated another well-known NDP health issue: she accused the government of not doing enough to stem the tide of health workers moving to greener pastures in other provinces.

“We are in a national recruitment competition and the provincial comptroller has confirmed that the Sask party does not have a credible strategy for retaining the doctors and nurses who are already here,” Mowat said. “In 2021, 600 more workers left the healthcare system than were hired … and the Sask party didn’t even hold exit talks to find out why. If you ask me, you don’t want to know why.”

The opposition tour follows a string of government announcements of “good news”.

The opposition tour follows a string of “good news” announcements by the Moe government in recent weeks on healthcare, particularly announcements of recruitment and job vacancies.

Last week, the Ministry of Health reported 160 job vacancies for Filipino healthcare workers from their recent nursing job recruitment mission in the Philippines. Their press release also reported that the Department of Health has received over 600 applications from internationally trained health professionals, including over 500 from Saskatchewan.

On Tuesday in Saskatoon, Health Secretary Paul Merriman and Secretary of Education Gord Wyant announced an initial allocation of $5.5 million to create 550 positions at post-secondary institutions for health education programs. Funding spans 18 areas including Medical Laboratory Assistants, Continuing Care Assistants, Primary Care Paramedics, Licensed Nursing Practitioner, Pharmacy Technician, Clinical Psychologist, Physical Therapist and Mental Health and Addiction Counselor Training.

On Wednesday, the province made another announcement that new paramedic positions would be added to Regina’s emergency services. According to the provincial press release, 24.5 full-time equivalent paramedic positions are to be gradually created over the next three months.

“We have heard from residents and paramedics that we need to do more to improve ambulance response times,” Health Secretary Paul Merriman said in a statement. “We are committed to providing patients in Saskatchewan with timely access to emergency medical services. This increase in Regina EMS resource capacity will benefit patients and better balance the workload of our paramedics.”

NDP not impressed

The opposition NDP is unconvinced by the province’s recent string of announcements.

“The government has spent so much more time spinning the numbers than actually solving the problems,” Mowat said.

Mowat referred to the report of the provincial auditor. “The provincial comptroller has made it very clear that despite the government’s staffing plan, we will still be under 1,000 healthcare staffing shortages even if a plan is in place. And the plan includes training, that was a pillar of the plan. So we’re going to look closely at the details to see what those numbers actually look like and talk to them and do those consultations that the government didn’t do in the run-up to this plan to find out what’s required for each of those different numbers fields as we advance.”

“What we have is a government that makes these big statements, pats itself on the back for a couple dozen job offers, demands credit for offering jobs, not counting the people who are leaving the workforce,” Love said. “And that was a classic SaskParty spin … counting the new hires or offers without counting the hundreds of people leaving the workforce.”

Love said they had to rely on independent officials like the auditor instead. Their report shows the province ended the year with 600 fewer healthcare workers. “That cuts the spin and tells you exactly that this government’s interest is in spinning the numbers, rather than being honest about who’s coming and how many are going.”

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