An open letter to Premier Moe from SGEU President Tracey Sauer
This week, your government is observing National Nursing Week. As you acknowledge the work of our province’s nurses, I write to call on your support for an often overlooked and undervalued part of nursing teams and our health care system: Continuing Care Assistants (CCAs).
As someone who was at the helm of the public health system during the worst days of the pandemic, you should understand better than anyone the absolute critical role CCAs play in supporting some of the most vulnerable members of our society. And from one leader to another, I was pleased to see your government commit to the hiring of 300 new Continuing Care Assistants, as well as funding for recruitment and retention strategies. After the stress, grief and, frankly, trauma, our CCAs experienced in the early phases of the pandemic, investing in our care system was not only the responsible thing to do, but also the right thing to do for our seniors and care workers.
So you can imagine my disappointment, Premier, when I read your government’s latest news release, which states that only 17 CCAs have been recruited—a far cry from the numbers promised by now.
You can also imagine my disbelief and dismay when, just a month ago, we heard Minister Hindley state that there will be no targeted retention strategy for CCAs because, “that’s what they’re paid to do.”
Premier, it is true that Continuing Care Assistants are paid to carry out a number of duties. But they are not paid to navigate an overburdened, understaffed workplace. They are not paid to bear the brunt of a system in crisis to the detriment of their own mental and physical health.
During the worst days of the pandemic, CCAs were often the only family that many care home residents saw. They worked short-staffed, extra hours and were not only performing the duties within their job descriptions and work rotations but were also looking after the social and emotional needs of those in their care.
Despite the fact that our province’s CCAs were pushed to their limits, they continued to care for their residents, clients and patients—even when, at times, it felt like nobody cared for them. Sadly, this is the thanks they get: an uninformed and offensive comment from the Minister representing Saskatchewan’s seniors.
Premier, do you agree with Minister Hindley’s uninformed and offensive comments? Or do you acknowledge that our Continuing Care Assistants deserve our respect and our action? If you genuinely care about Saskatchewan seniors and those who care for them, I trust that you will ask Minister Hindley to apologize for his comment—and, furthermore, I sincerely hope that you will take concrete steps to fund retention strategies for CCAs.
It is not lost on me that CCAs are predominantly women, and that many are workers of colour. Your government is eager to make posts and platitudes about equity, but if you truly value the role of women and people of colour in this province, you will put your principles to practice by investing in their work.
SGEU President (she/her)