Health care workers union unhappy with province’s surgery backlog plan

The union in charge of health care workers is not pleased with the Provincial Government and the Saskatchewan Health Authority’s plan to cut down on the surgical backlog caused by COVID-19.

Yesterday, both parties announced a plan that would cut into the 35,000 people currently awaiting surgery in the province.

The plan includes:

  • Perform an additional 7,000 surgeries in 2022-23 over pre-pandemic levels with that volume increasing until 2025.
  • Prioritize surgeries that have a higher list of long-waiting patients. That includes hip and knee replacements, ear/nose/throat, dental and general surgeries.
  • Utilize private surgical clinics and third-party contracts that will be funded by the public, with the cost unknown at this time.
  • Expanding and optimizing operating room hours and making better use of regional surgical sites.

That plan is facing criticism from Bashir Jalloh, the president of CUPE Local 5430.

Jalloh said that while cutting down on the surgical backlog is something that is necessary, using private and third-party surgical clinics can do more harm than good in the long term.

“We believe that those improvements can and must be within our public and universal health

“We believe that those improvements can and must be within our public and universal health care system,” he said. “Contracting out surgeries we don’t believe is the magic silver bullet for wait times. There is a limited pool of healthcare staff that we have, and any more or privatization is going to pull them away from the public system, and this decision will only increase our recruitment and retention problems.”

He said this would create a bigger backlog, with patients waiting on follow-up visits.

“These patients have to come back to the public health system for a follow-up, for continued care,” he said. “They need a follow-up, home care, they need therapy, and right now, because of the significant staffing shortage, especially in this area, it might only need to more staffing shortages.”

Jalloh noted that contracting out surgeries will cost our citizens more. Private clinics operate on a profit model and have higher administrative fees than public surgeries. He points out a 2011 BC study that found knee surgery for injured workers in a for-profit clinic cost $3,200 compared to $960 in a public hospital.

He added that this is just another example of staffing shortages, and dated healthcare infrastructure.

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