After over a decade of sounding the alarm on short-staffing, unfilled vacancies and the critical shortage of staff working in diagnostic care, CUPE condemns the inadequacy of the Saskatchewan government’s breast cancer diagnostic initiative.

“Shipping patients out of province does nothing to build provincial capacity. It will do little to provide solutions to the hundreds of other patients waiting for testing in every corner of this province,” said Bashir Jalloh, president of CUPE 5430 and a nuclear medicine technologist. “Health sector leaders have been calling on this government to address this crisis for years. Instead, they sat on their hands and have cooked up another out-of-province band-aid solution that will not go far enough to address the issue or help all those in need.”

Saskatchewan has the lowest wages in western Canada for medical technologists, compared to their counterparts in Alberta and Manitoba who make at least six dollars more an hour.

“We are not going to be able to recruit and retain staff without addressing workload and compensation,” added Jalloh. “This government’s only solution to health care waitlists is to send patients to private, for-profit companies that aren’t even based in Saskatchewan. It is unacceptable.”

The Regina Breast Assessment Centre only has a radiologist three days a week, and no patients are seen on Mondays and Fridays. Staff at the centre report that the number of patients has increased significantly over the last three years, but no additional staffing has been added.

CUPE is also concerned about ongoing staffing shortages for diagnostic imaging technologists in other medical areas, including at the Pasqua Hospital, where the combination of ongoing vacancies and two upcoming parental leaves will leave the facility with just two of six full time MRT positions filled. North Battleford, Prince Albert, and Yorkton have all recently been put on bypass because of short staffing in diagnostics.

“We need a comprehensive plan to add more staff, address the overall diagnostic waitlist and mitigate the ongoing bypasses in Regina and other communities across the province. This plan needs to include training spaces, as approximately 88 per cent of last year’s Regina-trained technicians left the province for other opportunities,” said Jalloh.