The Health Human Resources Action Plan and The Rural Health Incentive Plan both aim to fill healthcare positions that have remained vacant within the province. In the southeast, more than 20 healthcare professionals have begun working as a result of these initiatives.
“There’s a variety of gaps that we’re attempting to fill through our partners with the SHA,” said Health Minister Everett Hindley. “Identify where is the greatest need, where we have service disruptions, and how we end those disruptions by getting people to fill those job openings so that we can fully restore services in these communities.”
In Southeast Saskatchewan, some of these critical roles have already been filled. In Estevan, St. Joseph’s Hospital has added a medical laboratory technician, two combined lab techs, five registered nurses, two licensed practical nurses, and 10 continuing care aides through this program.
Oxbow has seen the addition of 2 continuing care aides, an emergency medical responder, and an RN. Arcola has had two RNs, and Redvers saw the arrival of an emergency medical responder, three primary care paramedics, a recreation worker, and two RNs.
The Health Human Resources Action Plan was started in 2022 by the Provincial Government. This plan aims to incentivize international healthcare workers to pursue a healthcare career in Saskatchewan, as well as promote careers in healthcare to Saskatchewan residents.
“That involves both increasing training opportunities here in our province,” said Hindley. “Making sure that we are recruiting from elsewhere, including the Philippines where we’ve had the successful labour recruitment mission in the past.”
In November of 2022, more than 400 internationally trained nurses from the Philippines received conditional offers of employment to work as registered nurses in Saskatchewan.
These nurses would then undergo six months of training to become qualified to work in the province. The training time is now 14 weeks as the process has become expedited.
Hindley explained that the reason the plan was developed was to address temporary service disruptions within the healthcare landscape.
“Services that are disrupted simply because they don’t have staff in those roles, and we’re trying to find staff to fill those gaps so that they can resume services as they should be.”
The health minister said that people were not applying for part-time and temporary positions, which had an impact on the healthcare system in rural areas. There have now been 250 new permanent full-time healthcare positions added across Saskatchewan.
The Saskatchewan Health Authority and the new Saskatchewan Health Recruitment Agency determine where those needs are greatest.
The Rural Health Incentive Plan was announced as part of the Health Human Resources Action Plan. This initiative aims to promote remote recruitment and offers a $50,000 incentive to new employees or employees returning to the field. There are nine high-priority health occupations, such as nurses and care aids. The incentive has been implemented in 54 rural and remote communities.
“To this point in time, we’ve had 248 incentives approved to date and even more applications coming in.”
There is also a physician incentive program, which was relaunched in April of 2023. The dollar value of the incentive went from $50,000 to $200,000 to attract doctors to rural and remote areas in the province. For the physician to receive the full benefit they must stay for five years.
“The intention is that hopefully by the time that the five years is up, that the doctor has now really come to fall in love with that community,” said Hindley. “They’ve settled down and put some roots in that community.”
Many smaller communities across the province have locally organized recruitment and retention committees. These committees often bring unique incentives to the table, such as organizing childcare for someone new to the community.
“Sometimes they'll do things like provide some temporary housing for a new healthcare worker. Maybe it's a doctor, maybe it's a nurse that's moving to the community and they don't have a place to live,” said Hindley. “They're anxious to work, but they aren’t able to purchase a home right away. So that's an option that they will try to provide.”
Hindley said that the committees are also a great way to understand the complexities in that area, but can also highlight their strengths and show what their area offers that another area may not.
“I think that by all of us working together and coming forward with constructive ideas we can address the challenge that we face, it's an ongoing thing," said Hindley. It's not something that's going to happen overnight. But we're trying to work as quickly as we can and do that with our community partners,”