NUPGE Statement: Healthcare Professionals Strategize About Crisis Level of Shortages in Staffing

Our national union, NUPGE, released the following statement on Friday, June 7, 2024:

Health care professionals, who are members of the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE), gathered in Saskatoon for a 2-day meeting to discuss and strategize about the challenges of Canada’s health care system. The backdrop for these conversations is the historic Bessborough hotel, where the negotiations took place to create our national public health care system, Medicare.

The meeting was organized to build a framework of positive recommendations on how to address the health care worker labour shortages and to present these to federal and provincial ministers of health, and even to employers as appropriate. The goal is to press governments and employers to take action to improve the system of care provided to Canadians.

“Today, our health care system is facing its most extreme challenge: unacceptable shortages of health care workers stemming from the absence of a coherent human resources strategy,” said Bert Blundon, NUPGE President. “We are witnessing a major crisis as health care professionals work daily to try to overcome severe staffing shortages, the lack of adequate supports and resources, and an increase in the number of people presenting highly complex health conditions.”

The pandemic exacerbated long-standing structural problems with the way health care is managed in Canada. But unions, workers and advocates have also been pointing to the challenges to delivering quality care in the face of an aging workforce and the needs of an aging population.

Health care professionals are proud of the work they do, but conditions are making it extremely difficult to provide consistent quality care. They see that the current environment is being acutely felt by patients and their families, making difficult situations worse.

“If we are to build a resilient, agile, and proactive system of care, we must address what is currently making health care professionals leave the workforce. We can’t be asking new, young workers to join a toxic, chaotic system, and expect them to be there for the long haul,” said Blundon.

“While it’s important to identify the obstacles that need to be overcome, our members are using their expertise, knowledge, and passion to find positive examples of what can work to rebuild our health care system to face the days ahead. We see this as an opportunity to provide the government and policymakers with front-line perspectives about solutions to existing problems.”

Some of the issues discussed were:

  • Education and training
  • Retention and recruitment strategies
  • Compensation
  • Fostering work-life balance and protecting the mental well-being of workers

“Health care professionals are perfectly positioned to advise on the direction our public system should be taking to serve the growing need of Canadians,” said Blundon. “We want to ensure our system can withstand the pressures of the future. Our health care members’ voices need to be heard by decision-makers. We are calling on health ministers and employers, including those at the supervisor level, to focus primarily on retention of existing health care workers. While recruitment and training are also key issues, keeping the current health care workers is critical to avoid an endless cycle of recruitment and training, placing new workers into chaotic and untenable workplaces.

NUPGE represents over 425,000 members, thousands of whom are health care professionals. Each province has over 200 health care occupational classifications, from respiratory therapists to occupational therapists, speech pathologists, orthoptists, biomedical engineering technologists, radiation therapists, and perfusionists, to name a few.

View the statement on the NUPGE website here: