SASKATOON – Imagine not knowing if you’ll be able to afford anything for Christmas because your job may be on the chopping block. Well that’s exactly the type of limbo thousands of Saskatoon Health Region (SHR) employees are currently in.
This, after the region’s CEO, Dan Florizone, announced Thursday the region was facing the worst deficit in its history, some $45 million.
As for who or how many jobs will be lost, that is still unclear. What is known is gains internally at SHR have not been moving along quickly enough and as a result the region is bleeding money, although it’s not quite as bad as the $62 million deficit they first projected.
“What would be the areas that we could target that would have the lowest impact,” said Florizone.
“That’s what we’re going to be prepared to talk about in two weeks or there abouts.”
Of 1,100 programs and services, 84 areas have been shortlisted as possible targets as the region seeks out a solution to the crisis.
Now, those representing the employees are sounding off since many say it’s far too risky to come forward with their concerns.
“If you’re coming out and saying this, that we’ve targeted 84 areas, what does that mean and we don’t have that information so it would be unsettling for the public as well because is that going to affect the kind of services that they need access to,” said Karen Wasylenko, president of the Health Sciences Association of Saskatchewan (HSAS).
Approximately 1,200 members of HSAS are currently employed within the largest health region in the province. According to Wasylenko, some clients are already looking at wait times of up to eight months for some therapies and job cuts will only make things worse.
All three hospitals in Saskatoon are currently running at overcapacity and patient demand exceeds staffing levels.
Population growth has far outpaced what the region can handle and health officials are predicting a massive surge in patient volumes in January, 120 more patients than there are beds.
Which is why any loss will be felt says officials with SEIU-West, from cleaning staff keeping infections at bay to hands-on front-line staff providing quality care to patients.
“The health care system is a chain and when you weaken one link, you weaken the entire chain and it breaks,” said Neil Colmin, vice-president of SEIU-West.
Front-line health care workers who declined to go on-camera told Global News they’re stressed, under-staffed and morale even before the announcement was at an all time low. Adding, if they had any say on where job cuts should be made in the region, the Lean department would be the first to go.
Colmin agreed, “It seems counter intuitive that we are spending millions of dollars ‘leaning’ when we are getting rid of front-line staff and perhaps creating that problems that lean can’t solve.”