We have been following closely the work of the government on vaccine sequencing strategy and plan for immunization staffing. We have also been asking a lot of questions of the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA).
We know that the province participated in the pilot beginning in December that saw frontline health care workers in Regina get immunized with the Pfizer vaccine. Since then, immunization expanded to other communities, and Phase 1 of the vaccination strategy was implemented.
Mid-January the Government of Saskatchewan and the SHA made an announcement about vaccine sequencing and published on their website the COVID-19 Vaccine Sequencing Framework for Healthcare Workers and Vulnerable Populations. The link to that information on the government’s webpage is now broken as the plan and sequencing have changed.
As announced by the Minister of Health and the SHA on February 9, 2021, Phase 1 as originally outlined will continue. This includes all long-term care and personal care home residents and staff, health care workers in emergency departments, intensive care units, COVID-19 wards, and COVID testing and assessment staff. As well residents of Saskatchewan 70 years and older and residents 50 years and older living in remote/Northern Saskatchewan are included in Phase 1.
We have heard from many of you that know you were included in the sequencing plan back in January in phases 2A, 2B, and 2C and are wondering where you fit into the new sequencing plan and why you are no longer a priority in the framework. Included originally in the plan were the following health care workers: anesthesia, operating rooms, all other critical care, hemodialysis, vaccination teams, radiology technicians, ECG/echo, phlebotomy and lab workers handling COVID-19 specimens, and direct home care workers in Phase 2A. In Phase 2B were LPNs, therapists, ward clerks, outpatient clinic staff, mental health providers, patient registration, housekeeping and environmental services, dietary staff, security services, social workers and case managers, client patient access services workers, chaplain staff, community-based health workers in First Nations communities, and traditional cultural workers. All other health care workers not listed would be included with Phase 2C, which would be the outreach to the general population.
The new sequencing information for Phase 2 excludes health care workers as it is a simple age matrix. Each age cohort will be immunized in turn, beginning with 60 to 69 years old and on to 18 to 29 years old. The ministry addressed the question of why additional health care workers weren’t prioritized to receive the vaccine earlier than the general population in their key messages by saying that vaccinating by age is the most rapid and efficient way to deliver the immunizations and that health providers have the benefit of additional protections in place where they work, such as visiting restrictions and an ample supply of personal protective equipment and training on how to use it.
Another concern that we have expressed to the SHA and the Ministry of Health is about the accessibility of the vaccination in the current phase of the rollout. The vaccine is being offered at limited times and locations, and CUPE members are being asked to attend work for a vaccine before a shift, after a shift, or on their day off if it happens that the scheduled vaccination time doesn’t fit with their scheduled shifts. In addition, they are being asked to travel many kilometres to the central location at their own cost to be vaccinated. This is not fair to our members and is a barricade to vaccination for some members.
Lastly, we are concerned about the lack of transparency in the actual operational plans and the staffing for immunization. CUPE and the health care unions have been asking for the operational plans to be shared with us so that we can better support the plans and you, our members. Despite the fact that the plans are in place, we continue to be denied access to them. Yesterday, the CEO of the SHA stated to the media that there will be no reduction of health services due to the mass vaccination plan because the SHA has been building a labour pool to take care of the vaccinations. The labour pool cannot function unless there is additional staff made available through service slowdowns or stoppages. What, then, is the plan to staff COVID-19 mass immunization?
For additional information:
CUPE National has prepared some great information that you can find here: https://cupe.ca/covid-19-vaccination.
The SHA has some information for health care providers that can be found here:
The government of Saskatchewan has provided information about the vaccine delivery plan that can be found here:
We are always interested in hearing from you on this issue or any other issue that you are facing. Please contact us.
- Main office: 306-546-2185