Saskatchewan's rural healthcare 'crisis'
The future of healthcare in two east-central Saskatchewan towns is
in limbo as residents anxiously wait to see if local emergency care will be cut,
signs that the province is facing a rural healthcare "crisis."
Beginning in September, emergency care in the Towns of Wadena and Wynyard will be terminated unless the Saskatoon Health Region (SHR) is able to recruit new doctors to the communities.
Since last year, emergency wards in both towns have operated on alternate weeks, with physicians taking turns providing emergency care. That arrangement is under threat after two doctors in Wadena gave notice in July and August.
"I don't know what more the health region can be doing," said president of the west branch of Service Employees International Union (SEIU), an organization which represents over 12,000 people in the health care, education and other community-based sectors.
This is an ongoing and growing problem, said Barbara Cape of the "crisis." She points to a number of small communities including the Town of Craik who will be losing their health centre this year; and the Town of Shaunavon who will be dropping their emergency services on the weekend.
"The list goes on and on and it feels like this is a slow motion train that is suddenly picking up speed and momentum and we're losing quality rural healthcare," said Cape, whose organization has been in communication with residents in both towns.
Last month, over 200 community members attended a public meeting hosted by the SHR in Wynyard to learn more about the doctor shortage and the impact it will have on their hospitals.
Residents are understandably "quite anxious," said Cape. These are communities, who for quite some time, have been trying to make ends meet and now it appears they might lose even those services, she said.
The domino effect is that it "stretches" the emergency medical service providers who will be forced to drive even further, explained Cape in a news release late last month. As a result, this "will delay vital emergency care and response time."
In the meantime, the SHR is "actively" recruiting both local graduates and doctors from other parts of Canada and abroad.
"There is a likelihood that we won't recruit, but we're trying to. We have a number of candidates that we're speaking to, both on a permanent basis as well as locum," said Corey Miller, director of practitioner staff affairs for the SHR.
Miller noted that the problems faced by rural communities aren't just a Saskatchewan issue but a national one as well. "There are shortages across the province and across the nation there are shortages. Internationally there are shortages as well."
A decision about the future of health care services in Wadena and Wynyard will likely be made in mid-July when the SHR's operational team will have a strategy plan in place.
Follow on Twitter: @fanyeesuen