Moose Jaw, like Saskatchewan, has had its healthcare system turned upside down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has led to burnout and even workers leaving the industry.  

The province is trying to pick up the pieces left behind by the pandemic and try to strengthen the industry through its Health Human Resources (HHR) Action Plan, announced in early September 2022.  

Over the next several years, the government of Saskatchewan will invest over $60 million in this four-point action plan.   

Here specifically for Moose Jaw, Minister of Health, Paul Merriman says that the need right now is for Registered Nurses (RN).  

“The RNs are something that we critically need across the province,” says Merriman. “They are taking a lot of the pressure off of our emergency rooms and our healthcare system in general. We’ve seen the introduction of Nurse Practitioners, which also take the pressure off of the system.” 

The province has created its Grad Nurse Expression of Interest Initiative, which matches nurse graduates with an area based on skills and preferences. Of the 78 who graduated in December, 68 of them have expressed interest in the Saskatchewan Health Authority. As of Jan.18, 2023, 29 students have accepted their conditional job offers. 

On the other side of the coin, included in the action plan is a new incentive program to try and attract people to those roles. The province will provide up to $50,000 over the next three years towards recruitment in rural or remote areas.   

“When we’re looking at the pressure of one specific area, we’re also looking at the feeder communities around Moose Jaw and if they’re stabilized,” adds Merriman. “If they’re not stabilized everything is going to flow in Moose Jaw and create some problems.” 

Merriman says the stability of rural communities around Moose Jaw such as Assiniboia and Gravelbourg is improving.  

“This time last year we had several communities that were in bypass mode or in a temporary disruption. What we heard when Minister [Everett] Hindley and myself when on tour in these communities is we need permanent full-time positions.” 

The province has now taken part-time positions and turned them into full-time permanent positions, which they hope will attract more healthcare workers to those rural and remote locations.  

Since launching in October 2022, 31 incentives have been approved for the following occupations: Registered Nurse, Licensed Practical Nurse, Continuing Care Assistant, Combined Lab & X-ray Technician, Medical Laboratory Technologist and Medical Radiation Technologist in locations such as Moose Jaw and Swift Current.  

Merriman explains that the response from the healthcare community toward the action plan has been a positive one, as they can see an improvement.  

“Especially in some of the rural areas where we have been able to resume emergency services, and we’ve had fewer disruptions. All of that is starting to happen but it’s going to take time because we need to get those people into places, get them trained, and then secure each little community one at a time.” 

Another way they are trying to fill those vacant positions is by recruiting healthcare professionals from the Philippines.  

To date, over 160 job offers have been made to Filipino healthcare workers including Registered Nurses (RNs), Continuing Care Assistants (CCAs) and Medical Lab Assistants. One CCA started working and settled in Moose Jaw in December. 

The ones with conditional offers are moving to the next phase, which is through the RN pathway. This will include language assistance, bridging education, and licensing. 

Merriman concludes by saying that he hopes this four-point action plan will strengthen Saskatchewan’s healthcare system more than pre-pandemic.  

You can view the full Health Human Resources Action Plan HERE.