SEIU-West worries SHA job postings could distract from pandemic

Click to play video: 'Saskatchewan health-care workers’ union worries job postings could distract from pandemic'
Saskatchewan health-care workers’ union worries job postings could distract from pandemic
WATCH: One healthcare workers' union is warning a high number of Saskatchewan Health Authority job postings could distract staff from the pandemic – Feb 9, 2021

Nurses, doctors and all Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) staff have been fighting the novel coronavirus and COVID-19 for months.

The battle isn’t over yet, but a union president is worried the focus may get pulled away.

On Monday, 139 management jobs across the province were posted on the SHA’s jobs website.

Posting the jobs is a lingering aspect of the health authority’s ongoing amalgamation process. In 2017 the provincial government combined the 12 health regions into one network to ensure provincial health coverage was more efficient. Since then, the SHA has been updating and reposting positions.

SEIU-West President Barbara Cape said the number of postings at one time is unusually high.

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“When we’re trying to bend the curve or flatten the curve, I think the timing is questionable at best,” she told Global News over Zoom.

In December, the health authority enacted its COVID-19 surge plan, redeploying employees and slowing down some departments to “support the pandemic response,” according to a press release.

SEIU-West represents roughly 13,000 licensed practical nurses, clerical staff and care aids, among other SHA employees.

Cape said so many people in leadership roles applying for jobs, potentially changing positions and then adjusting to their new roles distracts from the pandemic response.

If people are already stressed and worried with managing a strained health-care system during the global health crisis, then having them apply for new jobs — or re-apply for their own — adds to their stress, she said.

She said that attention would be much more useful if directed where the SHA currently has staffing shortages.

“Why are we wasting precious time and resources on reconfirming people into those jobs when we have a clearly identified problem with understaffing within the front lines staffing mix,” Cape said, referring to the SHA staff currently in isolation because of possible COVID-19 exposures.

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Dr. Dennis Kendel, a health policy consultant, conceded so many people potentially shifting jobs could be disruptive, but he said any adjustments likely would be small.

“As you go to more senior levels, people would have had prior experience in comparable management roles,” he said, adding there would be even less interruption if someone was applying for their own job.

The former head of medical staff at St. Paul’s Hospital in Saskatoon said, given the size of the entire organization, the relatively small amount of people in potentially new roles shouldn’t interfere with administering health care.

“I think the total work force of the Saskatchewan Health Authority is around 42,000, so if you think again about the numbers of hospitals and long-term care facilities and other institutions, and then think about… the numbers of different wards and units, it isn’t an overwhelming number.”

In a statement, SHA chief human resources officer Mike Northcott said the Authority has been working to implement the new structure from the director level and below since 2017 and is now proceeding with the managerial level.

“The changes to our structure may mean changes to job descriptions in some areas. This will result in job postings. Overall, there has not been a significant change in the remaining out-of-scope positions to be implemented in the restructuring of the organization.”

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The statement also said many leaders have been in temporary roles and posting jobs helps give them better clarity and stability.

The SHA said the current process is expected to last into the spring.

Click to play video: 'SHA continues to address staffing shortages, COVID-19 surge in Saskatchewan'
SHA continues to address staffing shortages, COVID-19 surge in Saskatchewan

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