Private for Profit = Cuts in Public Funding?
By Lisa Zunti
As an SEIU-West member who works as a Licensed Practical Nurse on a surgical care unit, I have been attending meetings of the Saskatchewan Surgical Initiative Guiding Coalition for over two years under the direction of our current provincial government mandate. As a committed health care professional, I was excited at the prospect of such opportunity to actively influence future solutions to increase surgeries within our health care system. Unfortunately, I come away from these meetings with feelings of despair and futility.
To add insult to injury, we are being informed at these meetings that our surgical waitlists are shrinking due to the efforts and decisions by the SaskParty government, when actual statistics indicate otherwise. For example, since 2009 surgical wait lists in the Cypress Health Region have increased 25%, in the Prairie North Health Region the increase is 66% and in Kelsey Trail Health Region wait lists have increased by 89%.
What else have I witnessed? The funding was scrapped for the construction o f 13 Long Term Care homes in many communities where bricks and mortar are in disrepair. Many rural health facilities continue to be plagued by disruptions in service, for example, the closure of the Wakaw Hospital and the temporary closure of Leader Hospital for more than one year. We have experienced disruption to nursing services (Shaunavon), to emergency services (Biggar) and the list goes on. Yet, at the same time, health region CEO’s, such as the one in Saskatoon, have received massive wage increases to the tune of 60%.
Brilliant, caring health professionals have gathered together at the countless meetings to offer up heartfelt, practical solutions and, yet very few, if any, ideas of this group are considered or implemented. Rather, the government pushes ahead with their own agenda – the formation of private for profit surgical clinics. The leading option put forward by members of the Coalition was to increase Operating Room (OR) suite usage in the public sector including increased OR hours and days. In addition, our group suggested the renewed utilization of rural OR suites that are currently not being used at all. We have equipment and facilities in the public sector: why not use them? What we have seen is a complete disregard for these ideas and the growth of private for profit surgical centers which come at a higher cost to taxpayers.
So much for maximum utility of the resources that we have…as the old saying goes ‘if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem’.