Saskatchewan NDP Leader Ryan Meili is looking to poach healthcare workers he says are fleeing Alberta, as he pledges $100 million in ongoing funding to boost staffing in Saskatchewan’s healthcare system.
Meili said his funding commitment would be enough to hire 100 doctors, 150 registered nurses, 300 licensed practical nurses and 500 clinical care assistants, as an example, though an elected NDP government would work with the Saskatchewan Health Authority to pin down its specific staffing needs.
“My message today to Saskatchewan is that we will invest in healthcare,” he told reporters at a campaign stop at Regina’s Pasqua Hospital. “My message today to Alberta doctors and nurses: come on over, Saskatchewan will welcome you with open arms under an NDP government.
“If Jason Kenney is going to continue down the road of chasing doctors away, well they’ve got a home here,” he added.
Meili argued that Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is pushing healthcare workers away with pay cuts. He warned that a re-elected Saskatchewan Party government would do the same as it looks to balance the budget through “austerity.” Saskatchewan leader Scott Moe has countered that his party is simply aiming to be “prudent” with spending.
The NDP is promising a health human resources plan to determine how to spend the $100 million. Meili couldn’t specify exactly where the added doctors and nurses would go until that work is complete.
“It would be premature to for me to say there’ll be seven in Estevan and two in Preeceville,” he said. “We need to make sure that we’re working with the bodies of docs and nurses and all the health care professionals in the province to make sure those folks are in the right place.”
Meili did not say how he will pay for his promise, or the hundreds of million of dollars in additional spending he has already announced. So far, the only revenue measure he has laid out is a wealth tax he claims will raise $120 million per year, though economists have questioned that figure.
“Right now is the time to invest and grow our economy so that we increase our revenue sources,” said Meili. “So we have more industries, we expand our industries, instead of what we’ve seen, with the Sask. Party.”
The NDP has consistently criticized the Saskatchewan Party government for what it calls “hallway medicine” in what it says is an underfunded healthcare system.