What is being done to retain medical staff in the province

Recruiting is one piece of addressing the healthcare staffing shortage. Another part of the puzzle is retention.

Hello everyone,

There have been some exciting things happening behind the scenes at The Flatlander.

Coming soon will be a new feature from Winnipeg writer Rob Swystun about how Saskatchewan and Manitoba are trailing most provinces and territories in preparing for the consumer transition to electric vehicles.

Readers might remember Rob wrote about how both Saskatchewan and Manitoba hope to capitalize on lithium mining, which is needed for electric car batteries. 

In past issues of The Flatlander, we have also looked at hydrogen-fueled vehicles.

Local, independent, in-depth.

Our Prairie stories.

In other news:

Earlier this year, I was granted access to film in three senior care homes in Saskatchewan. I followed a team of nursing researchers interviewing centenarians about their outlooks on the future.

Although in need of some level of care, these seniors are incredible. They are still dancing, weight lifting, writing and volunteering in the community–although remotely during the pandemic. 

The nurses wanted to know what life looks like at 100 as more and more of us are expected to reach advanced ages. So a short documentary, which is just in the editing stages, and several articles about this, will be coming up in The Flatlander after Christmas.

This week

I thought we would continue to look at what Saskatchewan and Manitoba are doing to improve their respective healthcare systems, but first, here is a humourous reader Christmas story from Alan Hustak. 

He writes: 

I was almost four years old in 1947 when an angel swindled me out of my Christmas present. It is among my earliest Yuletide memories, perhaps when I learned you shouldn’t get too carried away by the monetary aspects of the season.

Winters back then really were colder. The snow-banks were much deeper. And children really did listen to hear sleigh bells in the snow. Living on a farm meant the only way to get to Midnight Mass at the parish church in Stockholm, Sask., five kilometres away, was in a sleigh we called a cutter. It was an enclosed six-seater on wood runners with button-tufted upholstery and coyote fur blankets to keep us warm.

Midnight Mass in those days was at midnight. Three of them rolled into one: the candlelit vigil at midnight, the Shepherd’s Mass, and then the Christmas Mass at dawn.

That particular Christmas, which I recall to this day, my grandfather gave me a silver dollar. A solid silver dollar as big and bright and shiny as the full moon that illuminated the frosty landscape. The memory of it remains in my mind’s eye. I clutched that coin so hard in my tiny fist that I’m sure you could see the King’s profile impressed on my hand’s palm.

You can read the rest of the story here

It’s not too late to send your own holiday memory about Christmas, Festivus, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa. You can submit your story here.


A few weeks ago, we looked at the Doctors Manitoba report that showed how Saskatchewan and Manitoba compare to the rest of Canada when it comes to physicians per capita. 

We also examined how and why both provinces are each expected to lose hundreds of doctors over the next three years. To mitigate this, both provinces plan to hire thousands of healthcare workers, recruiting internationally. You can read that issue of The Flatlander here.

In that newsletter, it was noted that a delegation from Saskatchewan was going to the Philippines in late November to recruit new nurses. Health Minister Paul Merriman said the trip was successful and that 129 job offers were made to nurses there.

However, recruiting is one piece of addressing the healthcare staffing shortage. Another part of the puzzle is retention.

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To retain more nurses, Saskatchewan plans to convert 150 part-time positions to full-time permanent jobs for rural and remote areas, as there have been complaints in the nursing community that there need to be more full-time positions to attract new nurses to those communities.  

Meanwhile, in Manitoba:

  • The province plans to end mandated overtime for nurses, some of whom have been forced to work 14-to-16-hour shifts.
  • Manitoba will also offer financial incentives for workers to take specific shifts and create incentives for clinics to stay open in the evenings and on weekends.
  • The province also wants to entice nurses who have left their jobs to return by reinstating their seniority levels and covering the costs of testing and remedial training if they return.
  • Manitoba will also provide healthcare workers with more mental-health counselling. As The Flatlander reported last month, doctors, for instance, are feeling more anxious and depressed and burned out.

    Regarding the mental health of medical professionals in Saskatchewan, the Saskatchewan Health Authority plans to create new mentorship and peer-to-peer support programming to look at employee well-being and resiliency. 

    Criticism of the Saskatchewan Health Authority

    However, the Saskatchewan auditor, Tara Clemett, said more could be done to identify why healthcare staff don’t stay in rural areas and then follow that up with action to retain these employees.  

    • She said the Saskatchewan Health Authority could do a better analysis to tell her which facilities in this province have the most significant gaps. She said looking at where service disruptions exist would give them a clue.
    • Clemett also said the province needs to act faster. It took Saskatchewan five years to come up with its current retention and recruitment plan.

    Criticism in Manitoba

    • The Manitoba New Democrats have been critical of the Progressive Conservatives’ spending on healthcare, as it has been below the inflation rate. 
    • All five of the province’s regional health authorities are currently forecast to spend a combined $225 million less than last year.
    • The government set a goal of limiting health expenditures within 1.6 per cent of 2021-22 levels.

      Until next time…

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      Thanks for reading, and kind regards,

      Kelly-Anne Riess

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