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SASKATOON: Unionized workers at the Saskatoon Community Clinic are calling on the provincial government to stop cutbacks proposed last week by the clinics board of directors that will see a significant reduction in staff.

The provincial government has touted Saskatchewans community clinics as a model for primary health care reform. Its time the government demonstrates its commitment to this model by funding the Saskatoon Community Clinic appropriately, said Carla Smith, president of CUPE Local 974, which represents over 90 workers at the clinic.

The union represents a wide range of health care workers at the clinic, including nurses, lab and x-ray technologists, nutritionists, pharmacists, therapists, optometric and clerical staff.

The community clinic board says the reduction of 13 in-scope staff, in the form of job loss or reduced hours of work, is necessary to avoid a projected 2003/04 deficit of $339,000. Saskatchewan Health provides the majority of funding to the community clinic.

Over the past number of years, the clinic has not been properly funded, with positions either being eliminated or not filled, said Smith. This practice has to stop.

Smith said the news of the planned cutbacks came as a shock, since there was no indication of possible layoffs during contract negotiations that were concluded in May.

Smith said she informed Premier Lorne Calvert, Minister of Health John Nilson and Saskatoon Nutana MLA Pat Atkinson of the proposed cutbacks last Thursday at the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour convention. They were unaware of the potential layoffs at that time.

The Saskatoon Community Clinic played a critical role in ushering in our Medicare system forty years ago. Over the years, our clinic has proven that the provision of a broad range of services by a multi-disciplinary team of health care providers results in better health for patients at a lower cost. We should expand this model, not roll it back.

The union is calling upon clinic members and clients to contact Health Minister John Nilson, and their Saskatoon MLAs to urge the government to immediately cover the clinics budget shortfall.

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For more information contact
Carla Smith, CUPE Local 974 President,
at 222-3692.