Workers at the Sault Ste. Marie Group Health Centre are warning that without improvements to their working conditions, the quality of care will decline at the centre, which provides healthcare services to most Sault Ste. Marie and Algoma District residents.
“We are all immensely proud to work at the Sault Ste. Marie Group Health Centre, especially given its history as a model for public healthcare. But the reality is that working conditions have deteriorated and it is hurting morale and the quality of care. At the root of the problem is the centre’s inability to attract and retain staff,” said Melinda Genys, president of CUPE 894, which represents workers at the centre.
Wages are not competitive with other healthcare agencies in the region. Compounding the problem is the three years of wage restraint that were forced on the centre’s workers by the Ford Government with Bill 124. On top of that, they were denied the pandemic pay provided to other front-line healthcare workers.
Since 2020, approximately 65 people have left their jobs at the centre. This has increased pressure on remaining staff, as the centre struggles to attract registered practical nurses, administrative support staff and ultrasound technicians, to keep up with demand for services. It has also meant increased workloads and less time for staff to respond to patient needs.
“There is a real problem across our province in healthcare whereby funding and wages have been below inflation for years. We are all doing our best to make things work, but we cannot keep holding the healthcare system together on sheer willpower. We need a fair deal from the Group Health Centre in order to attract and retain workers so that we can continue to provide a high standard of care,” said Genys.
The Sault Ste. Marie Group Health Centre was founded in 1963 by local members of the United Steelworkers. Today, it provides healthcare services to more than 70, 000 area residents.
CUPE 894 members include administrative support staff, registered practical nurses, medical technologists and technicians, respiratory and physical therapists, social workers, dieticians and many others at clinics and physicians’ offices across the Sault Ste. Marie area.