Saskatchewan provided a comprehensive update today in regard to its four-point Health Human Resources Action Plan (HHR). 

Rural and Remote Health Minister Everett Hindley said, "Folks will know that we announced a pretty aggressive HHR Action Plan in September, a $60 million plan to recruit, train, incentivize, and retain more healthcare workers."

Minister Hindley explained that they've had a number of healthcare workers that have been recruited from the Philippines.

"We have 15 right now that are going through the bridging program. We had a number of new Continuing Care Aides come to work, some in Swift Current, Eastend, and Moose Jaw, with more to be expected to be arriving and to be working in the city of Regina in March."

For rural and remote Saskatchewan communities where they've experienced some service disruptions, Minister Hindley stated that they've had a number of individuals apply for The Rural and Remote Recruitment Incentive of up to $50,000 for a three-year return-of-service agreement, and there's been 56 incentive packages approved thus far.  

He explained that the HHR Action Plan is tailored towards rural and remote communities.

"In the case of rural communities, sometimes it's a matter of not having enough permanent full-time positions. We know there's people that are qualified and would be interested in working temporary or part-time positions, but they just can't do it for financial reasons, and you can't blame them. That's why in that particular instance, we've created a bunch more new permanent, full-time positions and we've seen some uptake there."

There is still some work to be done, he acknowledged, as there are still rural facilities that have temporary service disruptions, but he emphasized that they're doing everything they can, "to assure those communities that they want to work very closely with them, with local leadership, with the local healthcare workers, and with local healthcare teams."

As an example, he cited that The Ministry of Health's Final Clinical Placement Bursary has seen the highest uptake in years, and has exceeded this year's goal, with 145 bursaries that have been approved to date.

Minister Hindley noted that in some of their rural communities, they've heard from people who say they've got young people interested in healthcare but there might be a shortage of training opportunities. 

"We're trying to address that by creating more training seats starting this Fall, through a number of different healthcare designations, because those are the people we really want to be able to capitalize on. We also need to make sure we're working closely at the high school level to ensure that we're providing not only information, but opportunities for high school students to be further engaged, like job shadowing opportunities for grade 12 students." 

He added that through their government channels and local media, they're going to continue to ensure that they're providing updates to people as to the progress of the HHR Action Plan, "Our eyes and ears are open and we'll continue to gain feedback from people out there across this province and how we can address some of these gaps and we look forward to those ideas and collaborations."