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5,500 Canadian Nurses Strike in Saskatchewan

May 10, 1991

REGINA, Saskatchewan (AP) _ Some 5,500 nurses in the province of Saskatchewan walked off the job Friday, forcing officials to discharge many patients from about 100 hospitals.

Picket lines went up at 7 a.m.; talks between the nurses’ union and hospitals had broken off the night before.

The Saskatchewan Union of Nurses has said essential services would be maintained, but union officials will determine what services are essential.

More than 1,000 patients were discharged from Saskatchewan hospitals because of the strike.

The union is demanding a 19 percent wage increase over two years. Fred Rayworth, chief negotiator for the health-care association, called the demand unrealistic. The hospitals have offered a 5 percent raise over one year.

″The health care system in Saskatchewan is facing serious financial shortages,″ Rayworth said. ″It’s a very, very grave situation.″

Saskatchewan pioneered medicare in 1962 when it introduced the first publicly funded health insurance in North America. The last strike by nurses in the province - in 1988 - lasted for seven days.

Only a handful of patients were left in the wards of Regina General Hospital.

″It’s like a ghost town, isn’t it?″ said one elderly woman, clutching her hospital robe around her stooped shoulders as she shuffled quietly down an empty hallway. ″Everybody has left - there’s a few babies left in intensive care, but hardly anybody else.″

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