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Regina: Saskatchewan technologists are routinely working short-staffed and feel frustrated and angry over the lack of government action on staff recruitment and retention issues, according to a report released today.

The report, Understaffed and Overworked, was prepared by medical technologists and technicians represented by CUPE, SEIU and SGEU. Its release today coincides with National Medical Laboratory Week.

To show the extent of the understaffing problem, x-ray and lab techs in urban and rural health districts documented staff shortages on every shift, in every facility through the month of February. The results of the workplace survey contained in todays report show staff in many x-ray and lab departments often work with only two-thirds of the required staff on most shifts. Employees are seldom replaced when they are sick and they are often denied vacation time because of staff shortages.

The report also shows that employees in rural health districts spend hundreds of hours on call each month, and frequently must return to work after hours to respond to medical emergencies.

Understaffed and Overworked also provides first-hand accounts of the impact staff shortages are having on employees lives and patient care. Here are just two examples:

Staff feel overwhelmed by the workload. There are staff vacancies that have been advertised but there have been no suitable applicants. The majority of staff have had to carry over their vacations because there is a shortage of qualified staff and relief staff. During the month of February, the lab worked short staff on nearly every shift. Staff morale is poor and employees seem to be perpetually tired.
North Central Health District

Staff shortages have made it necessary to cancel many appointments for mammography and CT scans. For example, last year, there were 39 days where mammography appointments were cancelled due to technologist shortages.
Prince Albert Health District

The staff shortage problem has been brought to the attention of the Saskatchewan Association of Health Organizations (SAHO) and the provincial government many times.

Last October, about 150 lab employees in the Regina Health District walked off the job in an illegal one-day strike because they were fed-up by the lack of action on the issue.

The fact that six months later little has been done to address the problem, has made a tense situation worse in many x-ray and lab departments.

We are extremely frustrated that this problem has been allowed to continue for so long, says Judy Lowey, co-chair of the unions Provincial X-ray and Lab Steering Committee. As medical technologists, our primary goal is to give the best care possible in a timely manner, but due to staff shortages patients are waiting longer for test results and treatment. Morale is at an all time low, she states.

The unions representing lab and x-ray employees are launching a public campaign today, to demand the government implement measures to address the staff recruitment and retention issue. The campaign, which includes billboards, radio and newspaper ads, is calling for:

  • A provincial labour market supplement to retain existing professionals working in labs and x-rays
  • The restoration of wage parity between x-ray and lab staff across the province
  • A province-wide staff recruitment and training strategy
  • The establishment of a joint market supplement review committee, consisting of equal representation by unions and health districts

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Copies of the Understaffed and Overworked report are available at cupe.sk.ca or by calling Guy Marsden at 525-5874, ext. 229.