Healthcare updates in Saskatchewan

A blue hospital with a pink and white emergency cross sign above the entrance with a teal sky in the background.
Because everyone loves hospitals, right? Megan_Rexazin_Conde via Pixabay, manipulated by lee lim

From rural support to racism, Saskatchewan has got it all!

Rural Healthcare Updates 

In Saskatchewan, much of the population is rural. Small towns are scattered across the province, but few offer health-related services. In the towns that do offer these services, they tend to be understaffed and underfunded. This situation was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced the closure of many rural emergency rooms (ERs).  

Since then, efforts have been made by the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) and others to reopen these facilities with the proper staff and funding. The Health Human Resources (HHR) Action Plan, developed by the SHA and updated in October of 2022, described the efforts. 

The action plan update said, “Progress has been made on each of the four pillars of the Action Plan: recruit, train, incentivize and retain. This includes resumptions and restorations of acute and emergency services in a number of communities that have experienced disruptions.” 

In December of 2022, the Provincial Auditor of Saskatchewan released an audit. In Chapter 12 of the audit was an assessment of the staffing needs of the healthcare field and the ability of the SHA to fill those needs.  

The audit found hard-to-recruit positions, such as Emergency Medical Technicians and Registered Nurses (RNs), were “hard-to-recruit for various reasons. For example, some are in-demand positions, […] and/or are located in rural or remote areas of the province.” 

As a result of the difficulties, the audit suggested that the appropriate authorities “implement and monitor the success of targeted plans to fill hard-to recruit positions with significant gaps. […] Determine the optimal supply of new graduates to help address staffing shortfalls. […] Establish a First Nations and Métis recruitment and retention plan. […] Centrally analyze results from staff exit interviews, [… and assess] whether student clinical placements are a successful recruitment strategy for hard-to-recruit positions.” 

In a November 2, 2023, news release from the SHA, they reported that the HHR Action Plan had “improved access to acute and emergency services” in rural Saskatchewan communities.  

Several healthcare centres had recruited RNs to provide improved services to their communities. These locations include Lanigan Hospital, Watrous Hospital, Biggar & District Hospital, Canora Hospital and Collaborative Emergency Centre, Kamsack Hospital, and Wolseley Memorial Integrated Care Centre. The recruitment of RNs has improved these centres’ ability to provide “quality and accessible care.” 

The Virtual Physician (VP) pilot program was recently launched for the Oxbow and Porcupine Plain area. According to the SHA, the “VP pilot program is an innovative temporary solution aimed at addressing physician shortages or coverage issues in the community. By utilizing HealthLine 811, nursing staff have been able to consult with remote physicians located elsewhere in the province during critical periods.” 

The Ministry of Health is offering a “one-time rural and remote recruitment incentive” to fill high-need healthcare positions in Saskatchewan. This incentive offers up to $50,000 to healthcare workers, with applications open while funds last. Some of the high priority positions include RNs, Nurse Practitioners, Continuing Care Assistants, Medical Laboratory Assistants.  

Applicants not eligible for the incentive include currently employed healthcare professionals and recruits from the SHA’s Philippines International Recruitment Initiative. 

Racism in the RGH 

The Regina General Hospital (RGH) has been accused of racism, again. 10 foreign-trained doctors from Africa and East Asia filed a complaint against the hospital on October 5, 2023 with the SHA. This event has launched an investigation into the hospital for these claims and poses an uncertain future for healthcare in Saskatchewan.  

10 physicians in the internal medicine unit experienced racism in the workplace when Dr. Bonnie Richardson became the lead of the hospital’s department of medicine. According to CTV News, “The 10 doctors allege the shifts were no longer fairly divided among the 17 members of the department.” More desirable shifts were given “entirely to white physicians.”  

The change in management changed the workplace from inclusive to toxic. Dr. Abiodun Abdulazzez Olajide told CTV National News, “We felt like there was a gross abuse of power, essentially telling us we’re not as good as the others and we don’t deserve to be equal.” 

Dr. Tom Perron, one of the White physicians working at the hospital, co-signed the human rights complaint. He told CTV News that “A number of people(‘s shifts) […] were cut down significantly in an effort to get them to leave.” 

The Regina General Hospital seems to have a history of racism against BIPOC individuals. An interview done by Global News describes another time in which the RGH was racist. 

Janelle Orcherton, an Indigenous woman who received medical care at the RGH, was discriminated against by the staff in November of 2021. Orcherton, concussed with a sprained ankle and broken shoulder blade, was misinformed by staff members that she had been brought in by the police for being intoxicated. 

Orcherton had received her injuries following a fall down some stairs while she was with friends doing beadwork. 911 had been called following the accident, but the staff communicated racist stereotypes to Orcherton and her mother instead of the truth.  

“It’s hard to know there’s a stereotype out there of being the drunk Indian,” Orcherton said in an interview. Orcherton filed a complaint with the hospital administrator and was informed that this complaint was only one of many.  

These events could pose significant problems for the healthcare sector, especially since it is already experiencing staffing shortages. The SHA launched the HHR Action Plan in September of 2022 to address the shortages. 

The recruiting section of this plan included “marketing Saskatchewan both within and beyond our provincial borders to ensure people here at home, across Canada and globally know Saskatchewan is a great place to find healthcare opportunities, build your career and enjoy a high quality of life.” 

The intensive news coverage of the human rights complaint against the RGH threatens the positive impacts of the action plan and the trust in the SHA and associated government healthcare representatives. Going forward, it could prove detrimental to recruiting and training foreign and BIPOC health professionals if they cannot trust their workplaces to be supportive and healthy working environments.  

However, the timely response of the SHA may restore some hope in the healthcare system. While it is still under investigation, the Minister of Health, Everett Hindley, was recently interviewed by the NDP MLA for Regina Coronation Park, Noor Burki.  

Hindley disavowed the racism presented in the healthcare system, stating, “There is absolutely no room for racism in health care, or frankly anywhere in Saskatchewan. We take these concerns very, very seriously.” 

Hindley continued, “We have health care workers from across the globe coming to Saskatchewan to work here in our province, those that have been in our province for decades upon decades, serving patients and residents right across this province. And they are such valuable health care workers as part of our health care teams.”  


Comments are closed.