The strike that will not end

FTLComm -Tisdale - Wednesday, October 16, 2002
While it sounded like some progress was being made in the talks going on in Saskatoon between the Health Sciences Association of Saskatchewan and the mediator, who in turn is talking to the Saskatchewan Association of Health Organisations, the two sides are still not negotiating with one another. Louise Simard and the strike causing SAHO simply refuse to budge and the strike is simply going on one endless day after another.

Here in Tisdale there are six workers who are on strike and they were out picketting this morning in the -2º weather.

The sad part of a strike like this one is that the medical care system actually saves money the longer the strike continues. Since their failure to provide services to the public is of no consequence to the adminsitration of health care, and since they are all accountants and business administrators, they prefer the strike to continue as long as possible.

Meanwhile, the serious injury of a young Regina woman (suffered a broken back after jumping from the roof of the Regina Sears parkade) has drawn national news coverage to the Saskatchewan strike. The mother was on CTV news today explaining how she had taken her eighteen year old daughter to a Regina hospital for treatment of severe depression and four times they were turned away. A spokes person for the Regina health authority was interviewed and stated that no one was turned away from their facility. The mother stated that it seems very bad when a person must do grevious harm to oneself in order to receive treatment for mental illness. The Saskatchewan minister of health has promised to look into this case.

Meanwhile, the people that could have provided that young woman with care, are walking up and down the streets because the SAHO refuses to pay them at the same rate as the nurses in the hospitals.

Just to help understand the situation a little better we need to understand that the members of the Health Sciences Association of Saskatchewan have been working for the past year and half without a contract. In May the nurses union reached an agreement but SAHO refused to make a similar deal to the other professional workers. The simple concept of fairness just seems beyond the comprehension of Louise Simard and her organisation.

If the strike were to be miraculously over this afternoon the affects of this government agency created work stoppage will last for at least a year and perhaps much longer.

The people who are on strike are now drifting off to work in the private sector, or in other states and provinces, so that when the strike is over, this group, who were already severely understaffed, will be going back to work with a much smaller work force. To make matters even worse, the longest waiting lists for elective surgery in Canada are here in Saskatchewan, and they are now all more than a month longer and growing.

However, none of this makes any difference to the Saskatchewan Association of Health Organisations, the administrative organisation charged with the responsibility for negotiating with Saskatchewan health care workers. For them, they are doing what they were trained to do, cut costs and look after the bottom line.

After talking to the strikers this morning, I went into the health region office for the third time to try and talk to Gordon Denton who heads up this health region. The receptionist told me he was not in today as he was attending a board meeting. The regional health board is an appointed organisation which obviously does not meet in Tisdale and at least Mr. Denton is looking after their needs. My question for him was a simple one. I wanted to know what input the local health region, either its director or board, might have in influencing the obstruction of medical care delivery in the province by the SAHO headed by the form NDP cabinet minister Louise Simard.

( Ms. Simard is the wife of former deputy premier Dwaine Lingenfelter who left politics last year to become a member of the board of directors of some oil company. An unconfirmered rumor indicates that Ms. Simard and her spouse have experienced some difficulties, but Mr. Lingenfelter is back in Regina and very active in political circles. Perhaps, the recent reduction in royalties to be paid by oil companies is one of the former Deputy premier's achievements.)

Timothy W. Shire


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