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Nurse shortage leads to bed closures in Saskatchewan

REGINA – Saskatchewan’s nursing shortage is forcing bed closures at both Regina hospitals. A spokesman for the Regina Qu’Appelle Health Region said that six beds on a general surgery/gynecology/family medicine unit at the General Hospital will soon be closed.

That’s in addition to eight beds on a general surgery/orthopedics unit which have been out of service since late February at the Pasqua Hospital. “It has exclusively to do with [the fact that] there isn’t the nursing staff available to provide safe patient care,” said spokesman Mark Torjusen. “Recruiting is ongoing, but certainly, as health organizations across the country experience, it is a challenging process.”

Health Minister Len Taylor said the province is working to recruit health professionals in North America and around the world, noting that a shortage of health professionals isn’t unique to Saskatchewan.

During an early April question period session at the provincial legislature, Saskatchewan Party health critic Don McMorris said bed closures will only worsen the waiting list situation, especially for orthopedic surgery.

“Waiting lists are increasing and, under this government’s watch, beds are closing. That does nothing to reduce the waiting lists around the province,” he said.

Health Minister Taylor said the province has taken steps to address the shortage of health professionals as the province’s financial picture improved in recent years. “When we began to have additional resources available to us, in and around the year 2000 and since, we have continually increased the number of (training) seats and the money that’s available for collective agreements, recruitment initiatives and the bursary program.”

However, according to McMorris, the recent provincial budget fell far short of what’s required by only establishing 18 new seats to train registered nurses. A search on the web site showed over 270 nursing positions listed as available in early April.