Health care budget reduction recipe leaves a bad taste
Health Minister Jim Reiter appears to have a recipe for reducing our provincial health care spending. Unfortunately, it may not be a good recipe that Saskatchewan people will have an appetite for, as I don’t think it will either improve or even maintain quality long term care services in our province.
The first ingredient was to remove any commitment to safe staffing levels in our community nursing and special care homes. The Sask Party government accomplished this in 2011 when they repealed The Special Care Homes and Housing Act (and regulations). Although the previous minimal care hours per resident were insufficient, upon repeal of same, our government effectively removed the minimum standard. In place, they established guidelines which are unenforceable and wholly inadequate. This has resulted in chronic unsafe staffing levels in long term care.
As a second ingredient, the Sask Party government are in the midst of removing any notion of local control and autonomy in the delivery of healthcare services. This has been accomplished in the recent passing of The Provincial Health Authority Act. The provincial government will now be able to call all the shots when it comes to health care across the province, yet they will have one appointed board that they can blame when an individual has a complaint.
If you analyze the workforce demographics in long term care it is obvious that the role of Continuing Care Assistants (CCA) is instrumental in the provision of hands-on care to residents – we provide the bulk of personal care to the residents. Yet, approximately 40 per cent of CCAS (in Saskatoon Health Region) are over the age of 50 years and many have surpassed 25 years of service. Demographics in rural health regions show an even more significant aging workforce. This must be considered carefully in that an entry level CCA earns $21.61 per hour as of April 1, 2016. In order to achieve the standard of training to qualify as a CCA one must attend Sask Polytechnic for eight months and pay $5,600 tuition. The third ingredient, therefore, is the Sask Party plan to reduce all health care workers’ wages by 3.5 per cent thus putting all CCAS back to their 2014 rates of pay and holding them at these rates until 2021. This will ensure an exodus of those senior folks who can qualify for pension benefits; to remain working would be utterly foolish as it would take 10 years before any catch up would be possible if the government continues to persist with their wage rollbacks and freezes. There are few qualified CCA’S who could be recruited to work for an entry level position because the rate would be $20.88 per hour until the year 2021.
At the end of the day what this does accomplish? It is called forced bed closure in many (particularly rural) communities due to a shortage of qualified staff to manage long term care resident needs. There is an obvious savings to the Sask Party government in terms of health care spending. With the advent of one provincial health region, our family members who need long term care may be placed in locations quite a distance from home and family. This puts many families in a position to consider private for-profit options as an out-of-pocket expense which represents a savings to government as well.
As a CCA who has been working in long term care for 46 years, I feel the need to share my perspective with others about the direction our government appears to be taking and how I see them transforming change in health care to provide fewer public options to the people of Saskatchewan. It’s most unfair and will reduce access, increase our personal cost and create hardship for our families and our communities. We should all let our MLAS know that we share no appetite for this recipe.
Esther Dupperon - Executive Board Member, SEIU-WEST All material in this publication is the property of the Alberta Newspaper Group, LP, and may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior consent of the Publisher. The Publisher is not responsible for statements or claims by advertisers. The Publisher shall not be liable for slight changes or typographical errors that do not lessen the value of an advertisement or for omitting to publish an advertisement. Liability is strictly limited to the publication of the advertisement in any subsequent issue or the refund of any monies paid for that advertisement.
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