National spiritual care convention calls for moratorium on Sask. budget cuts

Provincial budget cuts that axed funding for spiritual care in Saskatchewan health facilities loomed large at a national conference held in Saskatoon on Friday.

March provincial budget axed funding for spiritual care in health facilities

Provincial budget cuts to spiritual care for patients were top of mind at a national convention on spiritual care in Saskatoon on Friday. (Getty Images/Win McNamee)

Provincial budget cuts that axed funding for spiritual care in Saskatchewan health facilities loomed large at a national conference held in Saskatoon on Friday.

The Canadian Association of Spiritual Care held its national convention in Saskatoon on April 28.

It concluded the conference by calling for a moratorium on the Saskatchewan government's decision to end the $1.5-million program in health region facilities.

The end of funding for spiritual leaders on call in hospitals was announced as part of the March 22 provincial budget.

'Ironic' timing

Simon Lasair from the Saskatchewan region of the association called the timing of the conference "ironic."

"We are hosting a national conference on spiritual care when this service is being cut from hospitals and long-term care facilities across Saskatchewan," said Lasair in a written news release.

"The fact that Saskatchewan will be the only province in Canada without this service is shocking to many of the delegates assembled here."

Retired spiritual care worker Tom Powell says spiritual care is also beneficial for people who do not have religious beliefs. (CBC News)

Tom Powell, a retired Saskatoon Health Region spiritual care worker of 20 years, was among those at the conference.

He believes the end of the program will be a great loss to Saskatchewan residents.

"These people, who are well-trained professional caregivers who are a valued part of the health-care team, are simply losing their jobs," said Powell.

"And that means that a good portion of Saskatchewan residents will no longer be receiving spiritual care when they come to the hospital."

Benefits for all patients: Powell

The role of spiritual care in physician-assisted dying and implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada recommendations were among the main talking points at the conference.

Powell said spiritual care is not only beneficial to people with religious beliefs.

"A good portion of Saskatchewan people claim no religion but … when they get into these institutions, they are hurting and they need help," Powell said.

The conference concluded on Friday.

With files from CBC's Jill Morgan