Solutions to workforce shortages finally recognized as urgent
This past September, an independent non-profit organization, Le Point en santé et services sociaux, organized a colloquium on education and training in health and social services (Colloque Éducation/Formation en Santé et Services sociaux) at the Lévis convention centre. In keeping with the mission of this organization dedicated to knowledge transfer in this sector, the conference was designed to generate discussion among various key players in research, education, health and social services to shed light on issues related to workforce shortages in public health and social services.
APTS representatives intermingled with researchers and students, public-sector managers and healthcare workers, and a handful of members of other unions, all attending workshops and panels. Aside from all the superfluous presentations aimed at equipping managers to bring their teams on board with the successive healthcare reforms confronting our health system, we found some interesting reflections and initiatives. The interview we conducted with researcher Marianne Beaulieu on the concept of engaged practice was one of the takeaways of the conference.
One overarching message stood out from these discussions: it’s time to rectify the negative image of health and social services conveyed by the media and work together to find solutions to the labour shortages.
Unions, however, were largely overlooked in the rhetoric of the “partners.” It was hard to see what role was ascribed to unions in the equation. Shouldn’t they be considered full-fledged partners, along with managers and professional orders? Given their expertise, the role they play and their knowledge of working conditions and professional issues, unions are in the best position to represent personnel in health and social services. The negative media portrayal of conditions in the healthcare system reflects serious problems that need to be identified and denounced so that lasting solutions can be found.
As the union representing the vast majority of professionals and technicians in health and social services, the APTS must necessarily have a say in this conversation to assert our members’ demands and propose solutions.
The APTS is closely monitoring the issue of workforce planning with that in mind. It is our duty to know first-hand the realities of the healthcare system, the daily challenges faced by our members and the solutions envisaged, in order to drive home their concerns in the proper forums. The very future of the professions and of public health and social services is at stake.
After the period of austerity that wracked the public health system in recent years, a number of job openings are now being posted, which employers aren’t managing to fill. That’s the point that managers and the MSSS are fond of repeating when they meet with the unions.
The workforce shortage has become such a priority for the MSSS that the directorate on workforce planning for public-sector employees and medical personnel has set up a series of working groups to consult the various partners in an effort to find solutions, develop pilot projects and set up tangible measures. Last March, a brief presentation of these working groups was made at one of the meetings on workforce planning attended by the APTS, for the fields of medical imaging, rehabilitation and psychosocial services.
It is important to note that every year, the workforce planning meetings attract representatives from health and social service facilities, managers, professional orders, unions and other government ministries (e.g., education, employment and immigration). These “partners” (as the MSSS calls them) come to find out about sector-based workforce projections drawn from data gathered the previous year. There is usually a brief discussion of that data.
In March 2018, the meetings were organized a little differently. In addition to presenting the data, the directorate on workforce planning at the MSSS also presented its list of working groups. In addition, half a day was set aside to discuss the issues and the partners’ perceptions of the proposed solutions. The MSSS also announced its plan to reach out to the education sector in an effort to better align training with the realities of the professions and help attract and retain personnel in the health and social services sector.
Does this change in tone mean that closer attention will be paid to what union “partners” have to say in the future? We certainly hope so.