I write to you all today to express my profound disappointment with the provincial budget. This budget contains nothing new that recognizes the dedication of registered nurses, nor the state of the overwhelmed, overburdened, and collapsed healthcare system. Nothing.
This budget does nothing to recognize the severity of the registered nursing shortage and the threat that poses to the safety of patients.
This budget does nothing to remind registered nurses that they are valued. There's nothing of retention, nothing to incentivize this healthcare workforce to stay in Saskatchewan, particularly mid-career and senior nurses. Other provinces in Canada have prioritized retaining their registered nurses, but here at home, you guessed it: nothing.
SUN has clearly recommended urgent actions: retain registered nurses, incentivize registered nurses to go full-time and provide reasons for early/recent retirees to return. We want a Nursing Task Force to help repair this broken system, with stakeholders at the table.
We did not ask for a "travel pool" of registered nurses who would be deployed all over Saskatchewan at the whim of the employer. SUN previously offered the idea of a nursing resource team based on a model implemented and run in Ontario during a time with low staff vacancies (very unlike the current circumstances in Saskatchewan). This model was used to address short-staffing and included comprehensive orientation, a varied skill-and-junior/senior-nurse mix, and many other components that made it successful. In this model, registered nurses would feel supported in the workplaces they enter, benefitting the system, the nurses and most importantly, Saskatchewan patients.
There are many holes in this plan, but I'd like to ask: where would the registered nurses come from, to fill this pool? The answer: our short staffed and overburdened healthcare facilities.
Perhaps the Government of Saskatchewan is unfamiliar with the challenges occurring each day in their facilities. I will list them below, but I know that you, SUN members, are very aware. You live and work every day in this thankless system. A "travel pool" will not save you from drowning in this health system.
Saskatchewan's 11,000 registered nurses, nurse practitioners and registered psychiatric nurses deserve a whole lot more than the nothing you received today.
Tracy Zambory, RN
What We're Hearing from SUN Members:
- The registered nurse shortages are pervasive throughout the system, bringing many areas to the brink of collapse.
- Rural facilities all over the province are frequently closed or on bypass because of too few registered nurses.
- Saskatchewan’s regional hospitals (e.g. Lloydminster, Moose Jaw, Yorkton, and Prince Albert) are struggling to recruit and retain registered nurses, delaying both surgeries and emergency care. Surgeries at regional hospitals are being delayed by 10+ hours due to staffing shortages. This is risky and highly stressful for already anxious patients. Some regional facilities are so short-staffed they are functioning with less than half their beds open. Major regional hospital intensive care units (ICU) are forced to regularly go on bypass to Regina and Saskatoon due to registered nurse staffing shortages. Regional hospital ERs often work with too few registered nurses and increased patient volumes due to frequent rural closures.
- Saskatchewan’s children’s hospital is buckling under the pressure of too many patients, too little space, and too few registered nurses. The emergency room (ER) has seen 4x the number of kids needing care than the available capacity. On occasion, parents have waited in their cars with their sick children due to a lack of space in the ER. The pediatric unit at the children’s hospital is overflowing, often unable to admit more kids with family rooms and play spaces being converted to care areas.
- Emergency rooms in Regina and Saskatoon are collapsing. Registered nurses work dangerously short-staffed – sometimes 50% short. Waiting rooms are overflowing, sometimes with 100+ patients. Some patients wait 16 hours for care. Behind the triage desk, patients line the hallways because of a lack of space. Cardiac monitoring and dangerous narcotic medication administration are routinely happening in waiting rooms, putting patients at great risk. Admitted patients have waited in ER hallways for up to 150 hours (6+ days) for a bed on the overcapacity wards. The Reginal General Hospital’s operating room alone has 13 registered nurse vacancies at present.
The system is in freefall without enough registered nursing staff.