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REGINA – Recent news around patient care at Santa Maria raises important questions on Regina Qu’Appelle Health Region’s (RQHR’s) deficit reduction strategy, says the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE).

In a 2012 memo to senior staff, RQHR outlines financial challenges resulting from what is said to be “excessive staff expenditures” and calls for cutting of staffing budgets by $12 million, specifically in RQHR. However, this is not restricted to RQHR alone and continues to be sought province-wide. As noted in a March 19, 2014 Government of Saskatchewan health-related news release, $51.9 million in savings is being sought in “sharing of services, attendance management and reduction of lost time due to injuries, premium pay and sick time.”

These RQHR staff expenditures include sick time replacement and job vacancy management, and the memo calls for the adjustment of staff levels based on funded positions rather than demands of the workplace and patient care.

“What these measures amount to merely exacerbates the problem, leaving the workforce understaffed and overworked, which ultimately reduces quality of patient care,” said Scott McDonald, president of CUPE Local 3967, serving RQHR. “A lack of proper staffing also leads to stress and lower workplace morale.”

At a time when LEAN management consultants are under fire for excessive expenditures, cuts to front line service providers and reduction of staff levels seem to be taking patient care in the wrong direction.

“This is not just an issue at Santa Maria; it is something that is being reported in every corner of this health region. Aggressive policies that manage and restrict employees’ sick leave usage and access to proper leave from work, and understaffing as a whole, cement the problem and create severe outcomes in quality of care,” said McDonald.