I wanted to reach out to let you know what we have been working on the last few weeks.
Today, the Bargaining Association health provider unions, SGEU-Health Providers, SEIU-West, and CUPE, launched a petition calling on the government to provide a wage top up for all health care workers who are working hard to fight the COVID pandemic. You may recall from our previous communication that the three provider unions wrote to the premier asking for all health care workers to receive recognition pay. The response we received from Minister Harpauer on May 25th outlined the program that was introduced by the government but did not address the concerns raised about the noticeably absent health care employees not covered by the program. The government’s current top up covers very few health care workers. An online petition expressing support for a wage top up has been set up to send a message to Premier Scott Moe and members of the legislative assembly (MLAs). The petition, hosted by all three unions, can be found at www.skhealthproviders.ca. Please participate and share the petition with others who may want to support this initiative.
The Saskatchewan Health Authority has begun to resume health services that were suspended or curtailed at the beginning of the pandemic. We are in Phase 1 of the plan to resume services, which was implemented May 19th. A summary of the plan as well as a link to the whole plan is available here. A link to the services which have resumed in Phase 1 is available here. If you were placed into the labour pool and/or redeployed, and your service is resuming, we expect that you will be recalled to that workplace/program/site. We have heard from one of our union partners that this isn’t happening, and, in fact, other workers are being deployed to these resumed health services. This is not consistent with the letter of understanding on redeployment and cohorting. If you are aware of this happening, please let us know, and we will work to resolve it.
Just a reminder that if you have concerns regarding personal protective equipment that are not being addressed in your workplace after being raised with your manager and OH&S Committee, please contact us. Of course, if the concern is serious and emergent, you do not have to wait to follow up but rather can use your right to refuse unsafe work.
We are working on a concern around the employer’s introduction of hand sanitizer that contains technical grade ethanol. According to Health Canada, the demand for hand sanitizer has created global shortages of ethanol. In April Health Canada assessed the risks and benefits of hand sanitizers containing technical grade ethanol and has concluded that, when used as directed and for a short period, the public health benefit to limit the spread of COVID-19 outweighs the risk. CUPE is concerned about prolonged use of this hand sanitizer containing technical grade ethanol.
We are taking the position that the employer should make every effort to obtain a supply of food grade ethanol-based hand sanitizer and will continue to pressure the employer to do so. In the meantime these products must be labelled indicating that technical grade ethanol is included as an ingredient, specific directions for use, and warnings that these products are for use for adults only and should not be used on broken or damaged skin, that they should not be used by women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, and that they should not be inhaled, as well as information on how to report any adverse reactions to Health Canada.
You may have heard in the news or on social media concerns about 12 rural hospitals being designated as alternate level of care (ALC) sites. This was part of the Saskatchewan Health Authority and Ministry of Health’s Health System Readiness Plan released on April 8, 2020. You can see the whole plan here.
In this plan they said there would be the following actions in the integrated rural health area:
- Temporary conversion of some hospitals to support alternative level of care patients over the next four to six weeks. Alternate level of care patients will flow from tertiary and regional hospitals to create capacity in those locations; and
- Temporary suspension of emergency department services to support reallocation of higher need sites. The affected communities are Herbert, Leader, Kerrobert, Biggar, Davidson, Oxbow, Arcola, Wolseley, Preeceville, Radville, Lanigan, and Broadview.
There has been significant pushback on the temporary closures from organized and concerned community members. An announcement was made by the government on May 26th that nine of these communities would have a resumption of emergency services, beginning with Arcola in mid-June. Concerning is that three of these communities do not have a planned resumption of emergency services: Broadview, Lanigan, and Radville.
Thank you for your hard work every day.
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