Province to Merge Health Regions


author: taylor balfour | news writer

health region

an illustration, for clarity credit ella mikola


Is this easier cross management, or potential undercutting?

Earlier this month, the Saskatchewan government announced that they would be merging the province’s original 12 health regions into one provincial health authority, but what exactly does this mean for the province and its citizens?

At a news conference on Jan. 4, Dr. Dennis Kendel, an advisory panel member for the Saskatchewan government, claimed that “we believe one single provincial health authority, focused on seamless care delivery and integration of services will improve the patient experience,” as well as that “building stronger relationships and greater integration with physicians also has the potential to positively impact the future management of clinical services,” as reported by CTV Regina.

Many of those who voted to go forward with the decision believe that it will help with improving healthcare in the province.

Health Minister Jim Reiter claimed, “If we do this properly, you will see no difference or hopefully some improvements.”

Reiter also claimed “Patient care is No. 1.”

However, what does this mean for those whose jobs will be affected? Reiter, at the news conference earlier this month, stated that “there’s no way to sugar-coat it, there will be some management positions eliminated.”

Currently, the province has “12 health region CEOs and 62 vice-presidents,” according to the Leader-Post. While making it clear that jobs would be lost, no set number for how many has been stated.

Despite the changes, Reiter has assured the people that their priority is the citizens of Saskatchewan.

“I don’t think the average citizen is so concerned about what the management structure of health care looks like as they are about front-line service. They’re concerned about services from doctors and nurses and diagnostic people and the various health-care providers. What we’re trying to deal with is the best way to provide that front-line health-care services [sic],” stated Reiter.

Wanting to put more effort into how care is given may be a step in the right direction, as many have described their issues they have with the current system. The lack of support in the system for those suffering with mental health issues was prominent in news cycles in late 2016. Now, a petition has risen in hopes of gaining a new Ministry of Mental Health.

The creator of the petition, Todd Rennebohm, was told he would need to wait ten weeks in order to get into a treatment program after going to the hospital due to suicidal thoughts. It was his doctor’s suggestion to check himself into the hospital, because he was going through detox.

Many home care providers have also announced how understaffed they are, making work that much more difficult.

“So we need more psychiatrists, we need more front-line counsellors, and we need more facility-based services that can catch those emergencies,” Service Employees International Union-West [SEIU] president Barbara Cape told Global News Regina.

“It’s pretty hard for someone who has gone into emergency, perhaps suicidal, to be turned out and told that it’s going to be three months before they can see a psychiatrist or sometimes six months,” Phyllis O’Connor, the Canadian Mental Health Association’s Saskatchewan chapter president, had also stated.

This does lead to uncertainty, since it has been made clear that this move will lead to job cuts.

“With the Sask. Party government, consolidation is code for cuts and closures — cuts to frontline services, cuts to jobs and closures of health-care facilities,” the Leader-Post quotes Danielle Chartier, New Democrat health critic.

Reiter said that some people will lose their jobs, but it will primarily be administrative positions.
“There’s IT people, there’s comms people, there’s a number of people that when it comes under one entity, you’re not going to need them all,” Reiter explained when it came to job cuts, “but we don’t have the number yet. That’s the work the transition team will do.”
Despite this, many citizens are not pleased about the change, such as Cape.

“As a taxpayer, there are so many reasons to be alarmed about this ‘transformational change’ initiative,” Cape begins in her letter sent to the Leader-Post.

“First, how will this massive change address chronic short-staffing within the health system in our province? There is no evidence that reducing the number of health regions will lead to better patient care.”
Earlier this month, Cape told Global News Regina, “If we start focusing on home care as a foundational first step in the healthcare system for our seniors and our most vulnerable, I think if we invest there, we can save the rest of our system money.”

Now, she wants transparency.“If this government genuinely wants to improve patient care, we should be looking at reinstating safe staffing regulations that would provide stable levels of care,” Cape writes.

“Rather than provide the funding needed to meet and enforce the standards, the government got rid of them in 2011. We must restore and expand such legislated minimum staffing levels – only this will ensure patient safety and the knowledge that they have the care they need in our health care facilities.” It’s a time of uncertainty for many onlookers and taxpayers in the province.

“Our tax dollars are extremely important and our government needs to be both accountable and transparent; such resources ought to be spent wisely, not wasted,” Cape presses. “These blunders have already been made, but there are ways to ensure the people of Saskatchewan are not forced to bear the brunt of this mismanagement.”
The province is rather divided on the topic, and maybe no one will really know whether or not this change will be a positive or a negative until it has taken action. Just like Cape concludes in her letter, “We must work together to ensure that ‘transformational change’ not be another race to the bottom, but an opportunity for everyone in this province to demand accountability, transparency and quality public services.”

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