The Regina Qu’Appelle Health Region’s (RQHR) preliminary 2017-18 budget has been approved for a year that comes with much change.
The RQHR is facing its usual challenge of serving a growing and aging population.
On top of that, however, is the transition to one provincial health authority and the challenge of meeting the Sask. government’s 3.5 per cent reduction in public sector compensation.
“That’s going to be a particular challenge for us to ensure people remain focused,” said RQHR CEO Keith Dewar.
Several upper management positions will be eliminated as a result of the RQHR winding down by the end of the year.
At the same time, Dewar said he and the rest of the team need to continue ensuring the region’s day-to-day operations are met.
RQHR serves 500,000 patients in southern Saskatchewan and has an operating budget of just over $1 billion.
The current fiscal year is ending with a $5-million deficit.
While the plan is to balance the budget by the end of the 2017-18 fiscal year, Dewar noted other factors might have an impact.
“There’s a lot of opportunity once you move to one health authority,” he said. “The challenge is in the transition from where we are, to where we could be – and the transition is going to put pressure on all of us.”
One such pressure might be how management decides to meet the government’s wage-reduction target.
Three health contracts are up for negotiation provincially at the end of March.
“My sense is as these changes get bigger, there will be layoffs,” Dewar said.
The big aim for the year is to reduce wait times for emergency room visits and surgery lists.
The number of people waiting three months or more for surgery in the region has increased recently from 200 patients to the current 2,528 due to greater demand and reduced funding.
Legislation to move to one provincial health authority was introduced by the Sask. government this week with the expectation to have a new board in place by fall.