Regina Qu’Appelle to lay off front-line employees


author: taylor balfour | news writer

“Nursing education is research focused and responsive to the healthcare system. Polytechnic designation acknowledges that” – Joyce Bruce / Matthew Barre


Is RQHR making a bad move?

For about a month, Regina Qu’Appelle Health Region has claimed that they are to lay off front-line workers in attempts to help resolve the deficit they have built over the past few years. RQHR is to reduce 120 full-time job positions. However, Keith Dewar, the Regina Qu’Appelle Health Region CEO, assures the Leader-Post that many of the job cuts will be fulfilled by cutting back on part-time workers. Reportedly, they are planning to have less than 20 employees lose their jobs. But what exactly does this entail in the long run?

Global News claims that RQHR’s hope is that unionized employees would be able to move to other vacant positions elsewhere in the region. This, of course, means that RQHR is hoping for as little job-loss as possible from those affected. While this is a positive, it still means that there is going to be exactly that – job loss.

Fewer people working the front line would mean that there are fewer employees on staff. If not handled correctly, this could lead to a patient care issue. So, really, is this being handled in a positive or negative way?

Dr. Andrew Stevens is an Assistant Professor at the Hill and Levene Schools of Business whose research and work involves human resource management as well as industrial relations. Stevens helps demonstrate exactly how RQHR’s decision has been influenced by its finances.

“RQHR is facing a $4.7 million deficit, which is small compared to its $1 billion total budget,” Stevens explains. “The real issue here is government underfunding and pressure from the Sask. Party to cut public sector expenditures. Laying off health care workers, whether front-line care providers or administrative staff, doesn’t make sense from a health delivery perspective.”

The announcement regarding the layoffs was first announced on Sept. 16 of this year, and ever since, an issue that seems to be facing Regina citizens is the consequences they will be paying for the mismanagement of money from elsewhere.

“Can RQHR honestly say that there are too many health care workers in the system? No, it’s using layoffs and attrition to tackle a budget issue, not a health care issue,” Stevens states.

On the other hand, if cutting back on workers could help a budget deficit, then maybe laying off part-time workers could be considered logical. This past July, CBC Saskatchewan reported that Regina Qu’Appelle’s deficit was projected at $15.2M for 2015-16.

At the time, it was assured that “funding increases and cost savings through staffing and overtime will get the region to balance.” However, Keith Dewar at the time also claimed that “it won’t be easy based on the demographics that we are facing.” Clearly, given their recent move, it has not been.

Even more concerning is that in CBC’s same article, it was reported that over the past decade, the number of patients RQHR has covered has grown by over 45,000 due to factors such as immigration and the “baby boom.” Not only is RQHR’s work growing at an incline, now workers are being laid off, despite the growth.

However, it seems like RQHR has things relatively under control. They are hoping that terminating full-time positions happens as little as possible, and if it were to happen, the hope remains that said employees could be transferred to positions elsewhere.

Which, as seen by their number, is a positive. Needing to lay off handfuls of full-time workers while your patients continue to rise is a daunting thought, both to patients and healthcare providers.

So, what does this mean in the long run? It seems like a situation that would be startling to workers and patients alike.

“It will probably do very little in the long run,” Dr. Stevens claims. “Health care costs are escalating, and a large part of this involves the cost of labour. However, the wage increases negotiated by the various unions have been small, and well below the rate of inflation.”

In a sense, the budget problem is only going to continue to get worse, and laying off workers to save some money will change nothing in the long run for RQHR.

“Without a real increase in funding from the province or federal government, we can expect matters to get worse from the point of view of patients and workers.”

The largest concern from many in Regina is how patient care would change, if it would at all. It may only be around 20 full-time staff members getting laid off or relocated, but that doesn’t eliminate the fact that 120 employees in total need to be let go entirely. If only 20 are full-time, then 100 part-time workers are going to be released. Despite the fact that they don’t work full time, it doesn’t mean that they’re any less valuable to patient care.

“RQHR says that front-line health care won’t be affected, but it certainly is not making an effort to improve by laying off workers,” Stevens claims.

Regardless of the numbers of workers laid off, a single employee is one less than before, and considering the growth RQHR is facing, losing employees won’t make their jobs any easier.

To such a decision, there are both pros and cons. However, if the decision won’t make any change in the coming future, then it seems like RQHR is stuck in a stalemate.

“Still, this is the reality of a system starved of adequate resources,” Dr. Stevens finished. For now, it looks like RQHR will have to wait until the resources it needs become available.


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