A Saskatchewan union is on alert for the 114 public-sector security jobs in the province's health-care system after the release of a report about Saskatchewan Health Authority's security services.
On Tuesday, the authority shared the 27 recommendations in its security services review final report, which was undertaken 10 months ago by consultant Tony Weeks.
It was meant to look to the future, but also to get the lay of the land of what kind of security is being offered across the province in light of challenges like workplace violence, the isolation of rural hospitals and staff who work alone in any of the 270 health-care facilities — including hospitals, long-term care facilities and clinics -— in Saskatchewan.
Standardized security recommended
A key recommendation is to develop a standardized provincial program for security services across Saskatchewan, said Derek Miller, the authority's executive director of infrastructure management.
There are currently 12 former health regions each running their own programs.
We need to ensure that our security services are aligned to support the delivery of care as opposed to simply being an officer in a uniform. - Derek Miller, Saskatchewan Health Authority's executive director of infrastructure management
"We need to ensure that our security services are aligned to support the delivery of care as opposed to simply being an officer in a uniform," Miller said.
"We can build in standards for how we do things training and equipment processes and so on."
Neil Colmin, vice-president of SEIU, the union representing the public-sector security jobs, agrees that standardization is a good move, and is in support of most of the report's recommendations.
However, Colmin said it's concerning that the authority has been highlighting a recommendation to assess whether in-house security staff is the best route for the province.
Through our past experience, any time that staffing models are looked at it has always been for privatization purposes. - Neil Colmin, vice-president of SEIU
"Through our past experience, any time that staffing models are looked at it has always been for privatization purposes," Colmin said.
He pointed to the privatization of health-care laundry services as one example.
Currently, Saskatchewan has 114 in-house security staff and 35 under an external contract. Colmin said SEIU's security staff are "absolutely irreplaceable."
Saskatchewan spends more than $13 million per year on security. Per bed, Alberta is the only province that spends more than Saskatchewan on security.
The report says "a business case should be developed to assess staffing models."
Colmin said he takes issue with that method of evaluation.
"We're talking about the safety of the public. The public could not be safer than with in-house trained professionals who are part of the health-care team and know the facility, know the people within it and know what to do," he said.
The authority does not have a timeline for implementing any of the 27 recommendations, but Miller said the time was right to evaluate public and contract security service options.
"As part of setting that provincial program and standardizing we do need to look at that and figure out how are we going to run this in the future," he said.
The first step is to put together a protective services leadership team to launch potential solutions outlined in the report, Miller said.
He said the union will be consulted before the authority make any future plans. Colmin said the union is set to meet with the authority in March.