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Saskatchewan healthcare workers are overworked and ‘drowning’, union says

CUPE Local 5430 President Bashir Jalloh says many members are considering changing careers as a result of staffing levels that were leading to exhaustion even before the pandemic. Connor O'Donovan / Global News

The head of CUPE 5430, which is the largest health-care union in the province and represents 13,600 workers, says its members are ‘drowning’ under the weight of ‘chronic short-staffing’.

He’s calling on the province to hire more permanent full-time health-care employees including continuing care assistants, medical technologists and cooks to ease burnout and exhaustion.

“We are not here to make a political point. We are here because we need help,” Bashir Jalloh said Thursday, standing as a guest of the Saskatchewan NDP in front of several of the union’s members in the legislative building rotunda.

“It is a situation across the entire province but it’s much more dire in rural communities.”

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Jalloh said that some members in continuing care assistance have worked 80 hours of overtime in a single month “to make sure the residents get the care they need”.

Jalloh said members don’t want to turn their backs when care is needed, but added that the situation “is not sustainable” and that many members have contemplated changing careers.

“This started way before COVID-19. COVID-19 compounded the problem. It is getting worse and worse every day,” he said.

“Most of us move from big cities to come here not because of casual jobs. We come here because of full-time jobs. The number one root cause of recruitment and retention problems in this province is precarious work. They have to post full-time jobs.”

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Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe was asked what the province can do to improve recruitment strategies Thursday, including how to attract health-care workers to rural areas.

“Those are precisely the questions the rural and remote health minister and health minister should be asking the SHA,” he said.

“Are there opportunities to increase the number of full-time positions being offered so that we can attract people in particular into rural and remote communities.”

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Moe said his government increased funding in its most recent budget to hire up to 300 more continuing care assistants over the next three years and said that moving forward, his government will be considering need for increased health-care resources in Saskatchewan such as ICU beds.

Click to play video: 'Premier Scott Moe responds to Saskatchewan Health Authority CEO’s resignation'
Premier Scott Moe responds to Saskatchewan Health Authority CEO’s resignation

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