The provincial government issued a new emergency order late Monday afternoon that they say will provide greater scheduling flexibility, and allow the SHA to move health care workers to areas experiencing high calls for service.
The government announced the decision in a press release sent out at 4:24 p.m. on Monday. The emergency order is effective immediately, and members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), Health Sciences Association of Saskatchewan (HSAS), Saskatchewan Employees International Union – West (SEIU-West), Saskatchewan Government and General Employees’ Union – SAHA (SEGU), and Saskatchewan Union of Nurses.
Health Minister Paul Merriman said the new order was necessary given the urgent and immediate needs of Saskatchewan’s health care system. He also thanked health care workers for their cooperation.
“We are grateful for the efforts of all health care providers and their commitment to patients, residents, and clients, especially during these unprecedented times,” Merriman said in a press release. “Their work is both valued and appreciated. We appreciate the leadership of the SHA, unions and all health care workers, and know they are committed to continue problem solving and working together to meet the challenges of the pandemic.”
The emergency order reinstates an old letter of understanding (LOU) that gave the SHA more flexibility to ensure the right staff were in the right place to help meet any surge in case numbers. However, that agreement expired in July when the state of emergency ended.
The provincial government released a statement on Friday saying they supported SHA efforts to negotiate a new LOU with health care providers. However, the province also stated they would reactivate the old LOU on Sept. 13 if the unions and the SHA couldn’t reach an agreement.
The provincial NDP blasted the government’s decision as a belated reaction to the fourth wave of COVID-19. NDP health critic Vicki Mowat and labour critic Carla Beck released a statement accusing the province of creating the problem by failing to follow the advice of public health experts and institute mandatory indoor masking and proof of vaccination requirements.
“Scott Moe took his eye off the ball and took the summer off,” the statement reads. “He should have been working collaboratively with health care workers throughout the summer to ensure these necessary agreements were in place. Instead, we now have an agreement being imposed on workers, record numbers of new COVID-19 cases, and non-COVID patients being forced to go without needed treatments.
“All of this could have been prevented if Scott Moe had listened to the experts and focused on controlling the fourth wave.”