Thursday, March 5, 2020

Priorities of government need to change

Here’s a riddle for you.
What do you do when your health care reforms fall flat and cause protests from citizens as well as the resignation of the deputy Premier?
Backtrack on the reforms, blame the health authorities and smear the former member of caucus.
Here’s another: What happens when the person you hire for a six-figure job doesn’t come remotely close to being qualified for the position?
Deny it had anything to do with patronage and make no comments on the lack of qualifications.
Ok, last one: What do you do when successive governments, including your own, have not dealt with issues of recruitment and retention throughout the public sector leading to a lack of skilled professionals in hospitals, nursing homes and school systems, etc.?
Propose cuts that weaken the system and don’t deal with the real issue, namely, recruitment and retention.
If this all sounds ridiculous, it’s because it is, but sadly this has been the last month of NB politics.
What is most concerning is despite years of warning signs, demographic numbers and watching skilled professionals leave for other parts of the country, focus on recruitment and retention has lagged.
For instance, lab technicians working in hospitals. For the past 15 years we’ve been sounding the alarm at the bargaining table talking about how a large number would retire around the same time leaving the province with a lack of technicians.
One government chose to study the issue and never dealt with it. Now, the current government is studying it again.
School psychologists are at a breaking point with massive caseloads and nowhere near enough staff to do the job. In fact, many have left for neighbouring Nova Scotia where they receive higher pay and better working conditions.
The situation in nursing homes is dire as well. Most homes operate with less than the ideal number of staff as burnout and injuries have become all too common for those taking care of our elderly citizens.
We have proposed many changes – many cost neutral – that would benefit both the residents and staff, but again it seems to have fallen on deaf ears.
So while our politicians fight, bicker and ignore qualifications as if they don’t matter, the province suffers because of a lack of recruitment and retention.
Solutions to the issues takes money, there’s no quick fix, no magic cut that suddenly alters the course we’re on. Government will surely counter that the financial situation of the province means there’s no money to hire more people and pay professionals better salaries in hopes of retaining their services.
But consider this: there’s always millions to invest in a company to try and attract jobs, millions in forgivable loans and payroll rebates to prop up the private sector.
Perhaps if our government wasn’t fixated on giving our money to the private sector rather than investing it in the public sector we would be in better shape.
Governments make choices everyday on how to spend taxpayer money.
We need their priorities to benefit New Brunswickers, not just a select few.