The interim president of the Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association (SUMA) is saying more needs to be done for health care recruitment and retention in Saskatchewan’s smaller municipalities.
Randy Goulden spoke with journalists on Monday during the 2022 SUMA Convention and Tradeshow in Regina.
Her call for more health services, particularly outside of Saskatoon, Regina and Prince Albert, also includes mental health support.
“There’s no doubt that there were always those types of issues [around mental health and addictions],” said Goulden, who is also a city councillor in Yorkton.
“But the pandemic has amplified that…. It has amplified it to a crisis proportion. Now we’re hearing more and more from our members that people are really suffering.”
Health care professionals are needed for treatment programs, but equally important are proactive services, she said.
In his speech at the 2022 SUMA Convention and Tradeshow on Monday, Premier Scott Moe also talked about health care in Saskatchewan municipalities, including the addition of 150 intensive rehabilitation treatment spaces.
“We’re appreciative of the 150 beds that are going to be added,” said Goulden.
“But also we need those proactive activities that can stop some of that before it gets to the crisis and before that treatment is needed. And that’s a very, very expensive treatment.”
24 resolutions discussed on Monday
Health care recruitment and retention, not just related to mental health, was one of the 24 resolutions presented, debated and passed on Monday afternoon at the SUMA Convention and Tradeshow.
Its action clause calls for SUMA to advocate for an immediate development and implementation of a long term recruiting and retention plan in order to provide emergent and acute health care throughout Saskatchewan.
With Moe speaking about training and recruiting more nurses and doctors on Monday, Goulden said she sees the province’s commitment to the health care system.
But “this needs to be done now and soon,” she added.
Goulden would also like to see more when it comes to bringing and keeping health care workers in smaller municipalities, she said.
“We’re pleased that Regina and Saskatoon and Prince Albert are getting upgrades and getting new facilities. But there are 440 of those urban communities in our province, and we would like to see fair and equitable treatment for all of them.”
Recruiting health care workers from the Philippines
In its recently released budget, the Government of Saskatchewan said that it’s creating a “new and independent agency” that will work to recruit and retain health-care workers.
There is $3.5 million in the budget for physician recruitment and retention initiatives, particularly targeting family doctors for rural areas of the province.
The government is also increasing spending by $1.5 million to bring 150 health-care workers from the Philippines to Saskatchewan, with a goal of reaching 300 by 2023-24.
“We applaud any way to get more health care professionals into our communities,” said Goulden on Monday.
Recruiting health care professionals is one thing, but retaining them is a whole different story, she added.
Bringing 150 new nurses into Canada will not only take a while, but she also hopes they will actually stay in the province, said Goulden.
Steven Lewis, a health policy consultant and adjunct professor of health policy at Simon Fraser University, says Saskatchewan has always had retention problems, especially in the rural areas of the province.
Lewis, formerly based in Saskatchewan, isn’t optimistic things will improve, unless significant moves are made, he said last month.
Goulden agrees that changes are needed when it comes to the working conditions of health care workers.
“I’m hearing from our communities that our health care professionals are burned out,” said Goulden.
“They’re working 12 hour shifts. Then they’re been asked to work longer. And that is not healthy for anyone to work.”