Dear Mr. Livingstone:
I write today on behalf of the 14,000 CUPE health care providers who are members of CUPE Local 5430.
Working conditions in Saskatchewan health care facilities are at a breaking point. Cases of COVID-19 across the province are rising, and infections and exposures of health care providers are making a short staffing situation even worse.
In facilities where there are outbreaks, staffing should be enhanced. Caring for patients or residents on isolation is much different than caring for patients and residents who are not. The donning and doffing of PPE, increased cleaning protocols, meeting mental health and social needs of isolated patients and residents, and in room dining are just a few examples of the extra burden that is felt by health care providers. This is not happening.
Health care providers are facing crushing workloads. The work is demanding, both physically and mentally. As well as regularly working short and being subjected to mandated overtime, health care providers are not feeling supported, appreciated, or protected by the Saskatchewan Health Authority or the Ministry of Health.
There is a lack of transparency in the communication with frontline workers. They are not always being told when there is a potential exposure in the workplace by a visitor or co-worker. They may learn that someone they sat next to at huddle is now self isolating because of an exposure in community care. There are delays in informing workers when there is an outbreak in the facility they work in. The union is no longer informed if there are outbreaks or health care providers testing positive.
They are subjected to a constant barrage of changing policies and information, including risk assessment information intended to keep them safe. These are poorly communicated, if at all, and the constant changes cause anxiety for the workers coming to work every day. They are delegated and dispatched to do jobs that are outside of the scope of their job and training, and they are asked to do this without appropriate or additional training.
Faced with constant changes, chronic short staffing, reduction of services, redeployment, labour pools, resumption of services, cohorting, and the rising COVID-19 numbers, CUPE health care providers come to work every day to do their jobs.
We are calling on the Saskatchewan Health Authority to start listening to the health care providers in the facilities and on the front line and respond to their concerns. We are calling on you to ensure that there is adequate staffing to meet everyday needs and increased staffing where there are outbreaks of COVID-19. Health care providers need transparent communication about the conditions they are working in; they need to be acknowledged and supported.
We are imploring you to do your job as the employer – protect the health and safety of your workers. We remind you that on May 20, 2020 the Saskatchewan Health Authority, the Government of Saskatchewan, and the unions that represent over 40,000 workers signed an agreed statement on principles for protecting the health and safety of health care providers, patients, clients, and residents. We demand that you follow those principles. Specifically, if a point of care assessment is done, and it is deemed by the frontline worker that they need a specific health and safety measure, it is provided to them. You must ensure that the appropriate PPE is out in the facilities where it is needed. The minimum droplet/contact plus PPE must be at all facilities, as we have seen that an outbreak can occur at any facility at any time. Delays of days getting face shields to a facility on outbreak are unacceptable, and so is being informed that a N95 respirator will only be supplied after several calls, including to Infection Prevention and Control, to okay the use of such equipment. What point of care assessment is being done from the offices of Infection Prevention and Control such that they are the key holders to the supply of PPE?
The Government of Saskatchewan and the Saskatchewan Health Authority are creating a dangerous situation during this difficult time of the pandemic. Health care providers are exhausted, and morale is low. The disaster that may be upon you is not a shortage of PPE but rather a shortage of health care providers. Without us you cannot win this battle.
CUPE Local 5430 President