Health care bud­get re­duc­tion recipe leaves a bad taste

The Southwest Booster - - PINION -


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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