Saskatchewan travelling to Philippines looking for healthcare workers


A mission to the Philippines will be led by Health Minister Paul Merriman as the province works to recruit more healthcare workers.


On Thursday, Merriman said the mission is part of Saskatchewan’s Health Human Resources Action Plan.


The five-day mission will last from Nov. 28 to Dec. 2.


Merriman said the action plan, that includes four aspects with one being recruitment, has been successful so far, with about 3,000 applications received and over 1,600 registrations confirmed to attend information sessions.


With the end goal to provide more employees in Saskatchewan’s healthcare system, Merriman said once they have selected successful candidates, it would take about three months before they would actually be a Saskatchewan Health Authority employee.


“It used to be up to nine months, the bridging program, we’ve reduced that up to three months,” Merriman said. “A lot of that bridging program would actually happen over in the Philippines to be able to make sure when the individuals get here, they can get integrated into our system.”


Merriman said the three month process is mostly for new employees from abroad being able to learn the Canadian and provincial healthcare systems.


Merriman also said when the new recruits have arrived, they will be aiming to get them working in areas that have been typically hard to retain employees.


“We haven’t determined that yet, but we’ll be trying to obviously get them into some hard-to-recruit places, which we’ve had some successes in,” he said.


An incentive being offered according to Merriman, is that new employees into the system will be eligible for up to $50,000 if they go to areas he said are hard to recruit workers to.


Merriman said while they are not recruiting doctors, he won’t turn anyone away who is interested but added that right now, they are mostly looking to bring over registered nurses, licenced practical nurses, continuing care aides and lab technologists.


MORE FOCUS ON WHO WE HAVE NOW


The Saskatchewan NDP said the onboarding process and getting new employees into positions is not as cut and dry as it seems.


NDP leader Carla Beck said they continually hear that the province is not consulting with healthcare workers who are already working in Saskatchewan.


“Recruiting people to the province can and certainly should be a part of the solution,” Beck said. “Right now though, we have a situation where there is a crisis in our emergency rooms, today [Thursday] over 60 people in Saskatoon alone are waiting. When people who come into emergency and are deemed sick enough to need a bed, no bed is available,” Beck said.


Beck said while it’s great to have new workers coming in, the province also needs to stabilize the healthcare workers we already have here that continue to leave for elsewhere, which only adds to the current strain on the system and remaining workers.


“We know that of new grads from the University of Saskatchewan for example, that only 10 per cent are choosing to remain in the province. This is an issue, physicians have wanted a seat at the table and have wanted their concerns to be heard by this government.”


“We want the government to work with [existing] providers and to work with local communities who know their needs and know where their opportunities are and we’re hearing that simply is not happening or is not happening in an effective way,” Beck said.

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