$8.1 million for first of their kind health care training programs in Saskatchewan

This article originally appeared on the Government of Saskatchewan website on June 14, 2024.

Saskatchewan students will soon have more opportunities to train at home through two new domestic health care programs. In 2024-25, the Government of Saskatchewan is investing approximately $8.1 million to establish the Occupational Therapy Program and Speech Language Pathology Training Program at the University of Saskatchewan (USask).

“Our post-secondary institutions play key roles in helping address provincial labour market needs and achieving our Growth Plan goals,” Advanced Education Minister Colleen Young said. “Establishing these programs in-province will give more students the opportunity to train closer to home and make it easier to retain our grads here in Saskatchewan.”

“As we were meeting with frontline health care providers, our government heard concerns that these professions were in high demand and that we needed to do more to attract and retain students,” Health Minister Everett Hindley said. “A key pillar of our Health Human Resources Action Plan is to create training opportunities here at home for Saskatchewan students passionate about a career in health care while encouraging them to choose to live and work in the province after graduation.”

Each of the new training programs will be a two-year Masters program that will accept up to 40 students per year. The programs are targeted to begin in the Fall of 2026. Until then, students from Saskatchewan can continue to access reserved seats in Occupational Therapy and Speech Language Pathology in Alberta through the government’s interprovincial agreement programs (IPAs) which were established in 2020 to help the province meet its need for specialized health professionals.

“We appreciate the provincial government’s investment in developing innovative speech language pathology and occupational therapy programs at the University of Saskatchewan (USask),” University of Saskatchewan President Peter Stoicheff said. “These programs will expand USask’s ability to train health professionals, whose skills are in high-demand and whose contributions will improve the quality of life across Saskatchewan.”

Occupational Therapists and Speech Language Pathologists provide vital health services to communities throughout the province, including children, seniors, and people with disabilities, injuries or illnesses. Under these new programs at USask, students will undertake clinical placements as early as their first year of studies, which will place more professionals into the health care sector sooner.

“The opening of this speech-language pathology program at the University of Saskatchewan heralds a new era in practice for our province,” Speech-Language & Audiology Canada Provincial Advocacy Manager and Interim Director of Speech-Language Pathology Jennifer Cameron-Turley said. “It is fitting that this announcement is happening shortly after Speech and Hearing Month, as it helps us continue to bring increased awareness to the profound impact of communication and swallowing disorders can have on people’s lives. We look forward to continuing to foster connection, and champion the transformative power of communication for the people of Saskatchewan.”

“The creation of this occupational therapy program at USask will address the long-standing provincial shortage of OTs and allow for greater access to critical occupational therapy services that serve Saskatchewan’s population needs, including primary care access, mental health support and management of chronic conditions,” Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists’ Saskatchewan Chapter (CAOT-SK) Regional Director Christine Fleming said.

In addition to these new programs, the government is also investing $2 million in the development of a Physician Assistant program at the University of Saskatchewan that is scheduled to begin in the Fall of 2025. Physician Assistants will help support physicians and increase access to primary care services throughout the province.

Expanding health training is a key deliverable of the government’s Health Human Resources Action Plan, which has the goal to help build a stronger, more robust health care workforce to meet the needs of Saskatchewan’s communities now and in the future.

To learn more about health care training options in Saskatchewan, visit saskatchewan.ca/hhr-train.

More Than One Third of Canadian Infants Do Not Have Access to Sufficient Infant Hearing Health Care Services

OTTAWA, May 28, 2024 – Seven out of 13 Canadian provinces/territories do not provide sufficient infant hearing health care. As a result, health inequities exist for more than one third of Canadian infants which impact their development and education. The 2024 National Report Card from the Canadian Infant Hearing Task Force (CIHTF) reveals that little has changed since its 2019 Report Card. Once again, Canada receives an overall grade of “Insufficient” when it comes to providing infant hearing health services through Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) programs. Canadian audiologists and researchers are urging decision-makers at all levels to prioritize infant hearing health care.

“Every child in Canada deserves access to timely and high-quality hearing health services. Your postal code must not determine whether you and your child have access to early hearing health care within a comprehensive EHDI program,” says Marlene Bagatto, AuD, PhD, Audiologist and Professor at Western University who led the development of the Report Card. “The disparity in availability of hearing health care for Canadians must end. It is time for the federal government to take a policy leadership role and provide guidance and resources to provinces and territories. Too little progress has been made since we have brought this to their attention. Ten years later, Canada’s overall grade remains insufficient and health care inequity for Canadian babies remains.”

The CIHTF is calling on the federal government to establish and implement national hearing health care guidelines for children. These guidelines would serve as a policy roadmap for provinces and territories, drawing on best practices in areas that currently provide successful and sustainable EHDI programs. The universal screening, assessment, and support services provided to infants born with hearing loss are not experimental. Evidence-based policies and procedures exist and can be modified for national implementation. What is required is the will to improve infant hearing health care service availability across Canada.

The CIHTF is pleased to report that the provinces and territories with “Sufficient” EHDI programs in 2019 have sustained them for the past five years. Of note also, there has been progress in some provinces and territories that are graded “Insufficient”. For instance, an external consultant reviewed New Brunswick’s infant hearing health services and provided actionable recommendations. In Prince Edward Island, clinical protocols are being developed for implementation. Several insufficient regions such as New Brunswick, Nunavut, and Saskatchewan have implemented newborn screening for congenital cytomegalovirus (cCMV), the leading cause of non-genetic hearing loss in newborns.

Although there have been improvements, the CIHTF is disappointed to report that more than half of the provinces and territories in Canada continue to have an insufficient grade.

The grades in the 2024 EHDI Report Card were based on whether all five components of an EHDI program are available province- or territory-wide.

“It is important to remember that universal newborn hearing screening (UNHS) is only one component of a comprehensive EHDI program,” explains Dr. Bagatto. “Along with screening all babies at birth, a comprehensive and effective EHDI program must include a hearing assessment to confirm the presence or absence of permanent hearing loss, services that involve technology such as hearing aids (if the family chooses) and language development, family support as well as monitoring and evaluation of the program. While high-quality pediatric audiology services are available in Canada, access to and availability of coordinated services within the broader health care system remains absent in many regions.”

Knowing about a child’s hearing is critical to support families in making communication and educational decisions for their child. Healthy hearing and communication development have important implications for brain development, learning, behaviour, personal and social relationships, and overall well-being. The most critical time for learning language is from birth to 2 years of age. The earlier a baby’s hearing loss is detected, the sooner language development supports can be put in place to help a child learn language—whether it’s spoken, signed, or both—and communicate with the world around them.

The CIHTF is determined to change the status quo. “We will continue to advocate for comprehensive infant hearing health services across Canada so that all Canadian children and their families have access to comprehensive early hearing health care,” says Dr. Bagatto. “We are now calling on the federal government to take action and establish and implement national guidelines.”

The Canadian Infant Hearing Task Force is a national group of leaders and experts in matters related to early hearing detection and intervention (EHDI), formed to promote, support, and advocate for comprehensive universal EHDI programs in all Canadian provinces and territories. The group is a joint effort of the Canadian Academy of Audiology (CAA) and Speech-Language & Audiology Canada (SAC).

Media Inquiries

Eve Clancy

Manager of Communications and Marketing
Speech-Language & Audiology Canada

Email: eve@sac-oac.ca

Investing in Post-Secondary Education for a Growing Saskatchewan

This article originally appeared in the Government of Saskatchewan website on March 20, 2024.

In 2024-25, the Government of Saskatchewan is investing $793 million in the province’s post-secondary sector, representing a 3.7 per cent increase from the previous year. This year’s budget provides for increased funding within the multi-year agreement, health training programs and seat expansions, and capital for key infrastructure projects.

“Our government is focused on ensuring that sustainable funding, programs and opportunities are in place for Saskatchewan’s post-secondary students,” Advanced Education Minister Gordon Wyant said. “This will deliver a future workforce that is responsive to the needs of our rapidly growing province and economy.”

Saskatchewan is providing a one-time, $12.0 million increase to its current multi-year funding agreement with post-secondary institutions, representing a 2.2 per cent increase in operating funding. This increase will help institutions remain responsive to the needs of students, communities and the labour market. The 2024-25 Budget represents the fourth and final year of this historic multi-year funding agreement and sets the foundation for negotiating a new agreement.

The Ministry of Advanced Education continues to expand health training programs in support of Saskatchewan’s Health Human Resources Action Plan. This budget includes $3.5 million in new funding to create 66 additional training seats in programs for Registered Nurses, Registered Psychiatric Nurses and other hard to recruit health care professions.

A further $7.9 million will support continued implementation of the significant seat expansions in high demand health training programs announced previously. Some programs include Licensed Practical Nursing, Medical Laboratory Assistant, Continuing Care Assistant, Primary Care Paramedic, Pharmacy Technician, Clinical Psychologist, Physical Therapist, and Mental Health and Addictions Counsellor. This budget also supports the continued expansion of eight Undergraduate Medical Education seats, providing $1.4 million toward training future physicians in the province.

In addition, government is providing funding to develop new opportunities for students to train in health sciences programs in Saskatchewan. Approximately $11.4 million will be invested to create Saskatchewan-based Occupational Therapy, Speech Language Pathology, Respiratory Therapy and Physician Assistant programs.

More than $19.8 million in operating grants directly supports Indigenous post-secondary education, including targeted funding to increase Indigenous student recruitment, retention, engagement and achievement. Indigenous Language Teacher Education Programs and Indigenous language scholarships are also receiving funding to support the preservation and revitalization of Indigenous languages in the province.

Saskatchewan students will see new supports for their post-secondary education. Students will benefit directly from $46.5 million in financial supports, including a new grant for low-income students with dependents under age 12 (or over 12 with a permanent disability). Other key student supports include $34.4 million for the Student Aid Fund, which provides repayable and non-repayable financial assistance to more than 22,000 students each year; and $12.2 million for scholarships and bursaries.

Students will continue to receive benefits after their studies through the Graduate Retention Program, which provides up to $20,000 in tax credits to post-secondary graduates who live and work in Saskatchewan. To date, more than 81,600 graduates have benefited from this program.

Saskatchewan’s post-secondary institutions will receive approximately $724.0 million in operating and capital grants, including:

  • $492.7 million to the University of Saskatchewan, University of Regina and federated and affiliated colleges;
  • $193.8 million to Saskatchewan Polytechnic, Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technologies, and Gabriel Dumont Institute/Dumont Technical Institute; and
  • $37.1 million to Saskatchewan’s regional colleges.

Key capital investments include:

  • $610,000 for the Student Health Centre Expansion at the University of Regina;
  • $8.7 million for electrical and mechanical upgrades at the University of Saskatchewan;
  • $7.8 million to support implementation of three new domestic programs at the University of Saskatchewan: Physician Assistant, Occupational Therapy, and Speech Language Pathology;
  • $6.3 million for cooling tower replacement at the University of Regina;
  • $6.0 million toward Saskatchewan Polytechnic’s Saskatoon Campus Renewal project; and
  • $2.6 million for continued and new expansions in health human resource programs.

In total, Saskatchewan has invested approximately $14.4 billion in post-secondary institutions and student supports since 2007.


Updates to the Disability Tax Credit Form T2201 Affects Audiologists

Based on the feedback from our members, there have been updates to the Hearing section of the T2201 Disability Tax Credit Application form, specifically:

  • removal of the phrase “with any applicable devices” from the section asking about the level of hearing loss;
  • removal of the question about Word Discrimination Score; and
  • there is increased space for healthcare providers to provide details relevant to their patients’ hearing loss experience.

‘Canada’s’ backlog of Jordan’s Principle requests is at ‘crisis levels’: Caring Society

This article originally appeared in IndigiNews on January 19, 2024.

The First Nations Child and Family Caring Society says “Canada” has failed to properly implement Jordan’s Principle and families trying to apply for support are facing a dire backlog.

The organization has filed 1,000 pages of evidence to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal supporting a non-compliance motion against the federal government for failing on its promise of timely access to health care for First Nations children.

An affidavit from executive director Cindy Blackstock filed on January 12th says the federal government has allowed problems to “fester to crisis levels” with First Nations children paying the price. The Caring Society is asking the Human Rights Tribunal to order the federal government to take various actions to address the pileup of Jordan’s Principle requests.

In October 2023, the federal court approved a $23.34 billion Final Settlement Agreement (FSA) on compensation for First Nations children and families who experienced discrimination because of “Canada’s” flawed and inequitable provision of the First Nations Child and Family Services (FNCFS), and the improper implementation of Jordan’s Principle.

The FSA stems from several Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings, one of which, made in 2016, ordered the federal government “to cease applying its narrow definition of Jordan’s Principle and to take measures to immediately implement its full meaning and scope.”

“Canada has got to show us that it will obey legal orders,” said Blackstock, who is Gitxsan.

In a letter dated December 17, Christopher Rupar, counsel for the attorney general of “Canada” responded to the Caring Society’s motion by saying that success “is evident from the recently concluded landmark negotiated settlement on compensation in this matter.” But Blackstock says the only way a child or family can be compensated is if they’ve already been victimized, and “the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal still has to ensure future discrimination doesn’t happen.”

Jordan’s Principle works to ensure First Nations children can access healthcare and the social and educational services they need, when needed.

The child-first principle derives from Jordan River Anderson, a boy from Norway House Cree Nation in “Manitoba” who was born with multiple disabilities. He lived in a hospital for more than two years because federal and provincial governments couldn’t agree on who would pay for his at-home care.

In 2001, during his time in hospital, Jordan’s family, First Nation, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, and healthcare providers began advocating for the government to put Jordan first and provide the care he needed. At age five, Jordan died in hospital, his case unresolved, sparking a movement to uphold human rights for all First Nations children through the creation of Jordan’s Principle.

In her recent affidavit, Blackstock said, “I promised [Jordan’s] family that I would do everything I could to ensure that Jordan’s Principle was honoured so that no other child had to suffer as he did. Eighteen years later, I am still trying to keep that promise.”

Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) — the federal body whose role it is to process Jordan’s Principle requests — has been denying families requests it views as “income supplements,” according to the Caring Society.

The Jordan’s Principle Handbook says “Canada” must ensure “a decision on individual requests for supports and services for First Nations children within 12-48 hours of receiving a completed request.”

Instead, the Caring Society has found thousands of unopened email requests — something Blackstock said her organization learned about from a First Nations service provider instead of the government itself. Further, ISC has failed to provide timeframes for determination and payment, leaving families seeking alternative for-profit solutions at their own cost, according to the Caring Society.

“It’s a hardship for families,” said Blackstock.

According to Blackstock, it costs $538 to review a Jordan’s Principle request. One way to speed up the system, she said, would be to automatically approve all eligible requests under $500. “They’d immediately save themselves $38 a go.”

ISC’s 24-hour phone line often goes unanswered, according to the Caring Society, and callers experience long delays in callbacks, even for urgent cases. They’ve also witnessed Jordan’s Principle “plugging holes” in other under-funded programs, such as education and transportation, and want to see the federal government address the gaps.

In an attempt to address these challenges, the Caring Society, the Assembly of First Nations, and Canada (the Parties involved in the Class Action FSA on Compensation) agreed on a ‘back-to-basics’ approach to Jordan’s Principle in early 2022.

The approach includes reducing the administrative burden on families through lighter documentation requirements for urgent requests and presumes parents or guardians are acting in a child’s best interest with a request that is specific to their needs. The approach should make requests easier to resolve and for ISC to comply with Tribunal orders, ensuring change can trickle down and be fully realized by children and families.

However, The Caring Society says they’re still not seeing improvement from ISC.

“First Nations are running into deficits, putting up the money themselves,” said Blackstock.

The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal is expected to hear the case in April or May, and a case conference is scheduled to take place on January 23.

Retraction—Association between hearing aid use and all-cause and cause-specific dementia: an analysis of the UK Biobank cohort

On December 12, 2023, there was a retraction made of a Lancet article entitled “Association between hearing aid use and all-cause and cause-specific dementia: an analysis of the UK Biobank cohort” published on April 13, 2023. It is important to note that this study is not the ACHIEVE study.

View the retracted article.

Interprovincial Agreements Give Saskatchewan Students More Training Options

SAC attended a media event in Saskatchewan two weeks ago to raise awareness for a new government program that increases funding for extra S-LP seats at UofA. This article appeared originally in Saskatchewan.ca on December 5, 2023.

Saskatchewan students have more opportunities to access specialized training in high-demand health sciences programs through new and updated interprovincial agreements. This year, the Government of Saskatchewan is investing $5 million to reserve up to 149 seats in nine programs offered outside the province.

“Our government is committed to ensuring we have skilled health professionals in place to provide essential health services for patients across the province,” Advanced Education Minister Gordon Wyant said. “These agreements allow Saskatchewan students to complete their clinical placements here at home, connecting students to jobs in the province and helping meet critical health care system needs.”

Interprovincial agreements support the ‘train’ pillar of Saskatchewan’s Health Human Resources Action Plan by helping provide a steady supply of specialized health care professionals to reduce labour shortages and help meet growing demand for services.

“My time studying at the University of Alberta helped prepare me for a meaningful career right here in Saskatchewan,” a recent graduate of the Speech-Language Pathology program Katelin Peters said. “Having seats reserved in specialized health care programs means more students will have the opportunity that I did to train for a career that supports patients across Saskatchewan and the health care system as a whole.”

The renewed agreements include seats in Cardiovascular Perfusion, Diagnostic Medical Sonography, Electroneurophysiology, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Nuclear Medicine Technology, Occupational Therapy, Prosthetics and Orthotics, and Respiratory Therapy. Saskatchewan has also added a new agreement for Speech-Language Pathology that reserves up to 15 seats for students starting this fall.

“Speech-Language & Audiology Canada would like to thank the Government of Saskatchewan for their recognition of the importance of investing in additional seats for Saskatchewan students in Speech-Language Pathology; and expanding the scale of Saskatchewan’s health training capacity demonstrates the government’s commitment to strengthening our health care workforce,” Speech-Language & Audiology Canada CEO Dawn Wilson said. “Due to current and future shortages, our members are not adequately able to meet the needs of the population, in particular the growing aging population. Speech-Language Pathologists deliver care across the lifespan and play a vital role in the healthcare system, in both public and private settings in schools, hospitals, early years and long-term care.”

Saskatchewan offers 23 in-province health training programs to approximately 8,900 students annually. Interprovincial agreements provide Saskatchewan students with access to additional specialized health programs not available in the province. As demand for these programs increases, Saskatchewan is exploring the potential to offer more health sciences programs in the province. Proposals for Occupational Therapy, Speech-Language Pathology and Respiratory Therapy programs are under active consideration.

Students enrolled in interprovincial agreement programs may be eligible for various financial supports to help fund their education and connect them to careers in the Saskatchewan health system. Supports include Clinical Placement Bursaries, Return-in-Service Bursaries, the Graduate Retention Program and Saskatchewan Student Aid.

Applications for fall 2024 are still being accepted by certain programs. To learn more about each program, please visit saskatchewan.ca/hhr-train.

The future of hearing technology

Listen to this podcast episode of The Current with Matt Galloway on CBC Radio that aired on November 13, 2023 regarding the future of hearing technology.

Hearing aids are expensive and make everything sound louder, not just the things you want to hear. But technology is changing, and some researchers are turning to artificial intelligence for a solution. Galloway speaks with Ian Bruce, a professor in the McMaster School of Biomedical Engineering; and Richard Plummer, executive director of the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association.

This is the hearing test all Quebec newborns will soon undergo

📺Watch the report from CBC News.

Four-day-old Victoria gets a quick hearing test at LaSalle Hospital, one of the latest facilities to start using a screening program for hearing impairments among newborns. QASLPA President and SAC member Paul-Andre Gallant commented on the process of screening 90% of infants born in Quebec for hearing loss as part of the Universal Hearing Program.

Introducing Defy Dementia – The podcast for anyone with a brain, by Baycrest

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Each episode will be complemented by a short video, infographic, and related resources to help you take control of your brain health.

Defy Dementia is hosted by Jay Ingram (Canadian author and broadcaster) and Dr. Allison Sekuler (President and Chief Scientist, Baycrest Academy for Research and Education, and the Centre for Aging + Brain Health Innovation). The Public Health Agency of Canada generously funds the podcast.