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More medical professionals on track to join Sask. healthcare system

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More medical professionals are on track to join Saskatchewan’s healthcare system, as the province’s action plan progresses.

The Health Human Resources (HHR) action plan, which was announced in September, prioritizes four points: recruit, train, incentivize, and retain.

Registered nurses (RNs) from the Philippines with conditional offers have started working through the RN Pathway, which includes language, bridging education, and licensing, according to a release from the provincial government.

Over 160 job offers have been extended to Filipino healthcare workers, including registered nurses (RNs), continuing care assistants (CCAs), and medical lab assistants.

Saskatchewan Rural and Remote Recruitment Incentive packages are available in 52 communities in the province for up to $50,000 for a three year return of service agreement for nine eligible professions.

"It's encouraging to see our competitive Rural and Remote Recruitment Incentive financial packages are generating interest and we are making progress in attracting health care candidates in rural and northern communities throughout Saskatchewan," Everett Hindley, rural and remote health minister said in the release.

The Ministry of Health has received over 600 applications from internationally educated healthcare workers from Saskatchewan and other provinces, who will be provided information on job opportunities and supports.

SHA has hired more than half of the new positions posted in rural and remote areas across the province.

According to the release, 68 of 78 nursing graduates from the December cohort have shown interest to work in the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA), with 29 students accepting their conditional job offers.

For students still in school, $210,000 in bursaries have been paid out for students to work in rural areas for their final placement.

As well, an advertising campaign with a testimonial from a registered nurse originally from the Philippines and other health care professionals in Saskatchewan continues into the winter.

Another campaign focusing on career opportunities for students in the province will be launched soon.

Despite the progress made by the province, there is still concern among the health care industry that more needs to be done.

Tracey Zambory, the president of Saskatchewan Union of Nurses (SUN), said while the recruitment progress is a positive step, more emphasis needs to be placed on the short term.

“The fact of the matter is that we are in trouble right now,” Zambory explained. “The recruitment that is coming from the Philippines will not fill the vacant shifts in Saskatoon on a weekend.”

NDP MLA Vicki Mowat also said the government needs to implement ways to retain health care workers already in the system.

“The folks we have applauded and thanked for all the work they have put in, it is our responsibility to make sure that at the end of the day, those people are not jumping ship to other jobs or other provinces,” she said.

Zambory is hoping to speak with Premier Scott Moe along with ministers to discuss both short and long term solutions including the creation of a nursing task force.

“As registered nurses, we have yet to be consulted, or to come sit and problem solve,” Zambory said. “Our members are ready to do it, but they are exhausted and feel like no body wants to listen.”

Zambory said lack of health care professionals have led to longer shifts and more vacations being denied, which has resulted in health care workers leaving the industry.

“They can’t keep it up,” Zambory explained. “The task force is willing to take on those conversations and come up with solutions.”

In the short term, Zambory said there are many ways to retain nurses and healthcare workers who are already employed and working in the province.

“Do we need to talk about an incentive? We have $50,000 incentive for new grad nurses but nothing to keep someone in the position now,” Zambory explained.

Zambory added falling back on retirees like the province did during the pandemic would also be a viable solution.

“We have many retirees out there that helped us during COVID-19 that were doing the contact tracing, testing, and vaccinations,” Zambory said. “Once that was over, they were dismissed.”

The Government of Saskatchewan denied a request for interview by CTV News but in an email said it will work with various partners to identify strategies for a strong employee retention.

For more information on the province’s action plan, visit their website.

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