Letters to the editor – May 25, 2017

Sask. health care

Health Minister Jim Reiter appears to have a recipe for reducing our provincial health-care spending.  Unfortunately, it may not be a good recipe that Saskatchewan people will have an appetite for, as I don’t think it will either improve or even maintain quality long-term care services in our province.  

The first ingredient was to remove any commitment to safe staffing levels in our community nursing and special care homes. The Saskatchewan Party accomplished this in 2011 when it repealed the Special Care Homes and Housing Act. Although the previous minimal care hours per resident were insufficient, upon repeal of same, our government effectively removed the minimum standard.  In place, they established guidelines that are unenforceable and wholly inadequate.  This has resulted in chronic unsafe staffing levels in long-term care.

As a second ingredient, the Sask Party government is in the midst of removing any notion of local control and autonomy in the delivery of health care services. This has been accomplished in the recent passing of the Provincial Health Authority Act. The provincial government will now be able to call all the shots when it comes to health care across the province, yet they will have one appointed board that they can blame when an individual has a complaint.

If you analyze the workforce demographics in long-term care, it is obvious that the role of continuing care assistants is instrumental in the provision of hands-on care to residents — we provide the bulk of personal care to the residents. Yet, approximately 40 percent of CCAs (in Saskatoon Health Region) are over the age of 50 years and many have surpassed 25 years of service.  

The third ingredient, therefore, is the Sask Party plan to reduce all health care workers’ wages by 3.5 percent, thus putting all CCAs back to their 2014 rates of pay and holding them at these rates until 2021. This will ensure an exodus of those seniors who can qualify for pension benefits.

It is called forced bed closure in many (particularly rural) communities due to a shortage of qualified staff to manage long-term care resident needs. With the advent of one provincial health region, our family members who need long-term care may be placed in locations quite a distance from home and family. This puts many families in a position to consider private for-profit options as an out-of-pocket expense, which represents a savings to government as well.

As a CCA who has been working in long-term care for 46 years, I feel the need to share my perspective with others about the direction our government appears to be taking and how I see them transforming change in health care to provide fewer public options to the people of Saskatchewan. It’s most unfair and will reduce access, increase our personal cost and create hardship for our families and our communities. We should all let our MLAs know that we share no appetite for this recipe.

Esther Dupperon, SEIU-West
Executive Board Member
Regina, Sask.

Supply management

I write is response to Premier Brad Wall’s comments in The Western Producer, April 13 edition. (Sask. Premier suggests supply management trade-off.)

It is most unlikely that the higher price for cheese in Saskatchewan groceries is solely the result of the dairy supply management system. Locally, grocery items vary widely over time and among the various outlets, even within the same network of stores. Columnist Tom van Dusen wrote in Ontario Farmer April 18, 2017, that he had bought cheddar cheese in a new local store at $3.77 for a 450-gram block. I often wonder how a $1.75 kilo of pork (farm price) is on our grocery shelf at as much as $17.50.

High prices, whether for electricity, housing, automobiles or labour, affects low income folks to a greater degree than those with more substantive resources.  I recently saw an F-150 pickup advertised for over $96,000  — what portion of the public does that price eliminate?

Grains, hog and beef grow on my farm. None is under a supply management system. Prices for these commodities fluctuate frequently, and often widely. Planting expenses are now appearing for seed, fertilizer, fuel and repairs. 

Hopefully, weather, pestilence and markets will be kind enough to supply enough revenue to cover these expenditures and leave some extra for family expenses. Producers of supply managed commodities have the benefit that their prices are steady so they can focus on productivity and cost management. Salaries are stable for a significant portion of Canadians. Supply management provides the same security for a portion of the farming population.

As for cheese, I find imported, European cheeses are priced well above Canadian product, as much as $50 per kilo. Increased imports from Europe will not likely find their way to my kitchen.

Ed Pridham
Stayner, Ont.

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