Sask. Union leader skeptical of Philippine healthcare recruitment plan


Barb Cape says she wants to be candid about the limits of recruiting healthcare workers in the Philippines.

“I think it’s important for us to recognize that you know, the Philippines just went through a natural disaster. So recruiting in the Philippines during a natural disaster doesn’t seem, you know, like a good idea,” said the president of SEIU-West. News from CTV.

In December, a powerful typhoon left at least 375 people dead and 50 others missing, mostly in the central region of the county, officials said. At its strongest, the typhoon blew sustained winds of 195 km / h and gusts of up to 270 km / h. More than 700,000 people were struck by the typhoon in the central island provinces, including more than 400,000 who had to be moved to emergency shelters.

Cape’s comment came in response to the Department of Health’s announcement that the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) hopes to recruit at least 150 and up to 300 international healthcare workers, with a focus on workers from the Philippines. Recruitment should focus on hard-to-recruit staff, including registered nurses and licensed practical nurses, medical laboratory technologists, and continuing care assistants.

A spokesperson for SHA said management was not available for an interview due to the current demands of the COVID-19 pandemic. The SHA previously said that as of December, there were 647 vacant registered nurse or registered psychiatric nurse positions and 155 registered practical nurse openings.

“The SHA, the Department of Health, and the people who expect us to be able to move mountains with 150 more people,” Cape said.

“There are health systems all over the United States, there are health authorities all over Canada, which go to exactly the same place as us – to the Philippines. There are governments all over the world that go to the Philippines, to bring healthcare workers into their systems. And that’s a great opportunity for Filipino healthcare workers. But they need healthcare workers right now during this natural disaster. “

Cape also asked what makes Saskatchewan an attractive place for healthcare workers given “the problems our system is currently experiencing and the widespread lack of public health order enforcement during our pandemic.”

Cape said there were 1,400 vacant health care positions in the province, with other hard-to-recruit positions including medical radiation technologists, life support technicians, paramedics and cooks.

“I think we need to be serious about recruiting. But we also need to be serious about retaining the people we currently have.”

She said the healthcare industry is experiencing record retirements; people are exhausted and exhausted by health authorities who rely on overtime to fill staffing gaps.

“We see people who just give up on putting their hands up and saying, ‘You know what, I’ve had enough, I’m either going to get laid back or I’m going to quit the system altogether. “And that’s huge because these are people who have years of service, they have the knowledge, the skills and the experience to actually put that education into practice,” she said.

Tracy Zambory, president of the Saskatchewan Nurses Union, said the situation for nurses was on the verge of crisis.

There have been weekends when 200 shifts were vacant in all three emergency rooms at hospitals in Saskatoon, she said.

“People may have walked out because they’re exhausted, they’re exhausted, they can’t take it anymore, because the emergency room is where everyone enters the health care system. In the middle of the fourth wave, it was almost unbearable to work there. The pressure was so strong, there was no listening to the healthcare professionals on the part of the leaders of this province. No sort of measure that was suggested or requested was heeded.

“So the pressure in healthcare, in emergency rooms, in intensive care units has kept coming and going without interruption. People can only endure this kind of stress for so long. . And they have to get away to try to keep their sanity intact. “

She said a recent survey found that one in four RNs suffers from a mental health crisis and one in five is eligible for retirement.

“They feel exhausted. And maybe they are looking to change professions,” she said.

She said recruitment and retention in rural and remote areas has long been a problem, but previously these positions had financial incentives; these have been cut for some time, she said. Young people also often see Regina and Saskatoon as their communities, she said.

In addition, young people and recent graduates were often tasked with rural emergencies, which was overwhelming without the support they had in large urban centers, she said.

“Being in charge, sometimes in communities without a doctor, was very stressful for the new graduates. Thus, the support system for new graduates to safely practice and thrive with senior nurses was a major hurdle. “

The two union leaders said foreign workers must be properly supported to adapt to the local culture and health system.

They also touted the potential for recruiting from Indigenous communities.

With associated press kits

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