Transformational change is coming to Saskatchewan’s health regions with the number expected to be reduced as part of an announcement made in Wednesday’s budget.
Currently there are 12 health regions in Saskatchewan, 13 if you include Athabasca, a shared venture with the federal government.
It isn’t clear what the new figure will be, but both the premier and the health minister have spoken that it could be zero and the health ministry becomes a centralized service much like in Alberta. A special commissioner is being appointed to look into the issue and recommend options not only on how many health regions there should be but find ways to deliver health care in a more efficient and cost-effective way.
Regina Qu’Appelle Health Region head Keith Dewar maintains this proposed change doesn’t have to be a bad thing.
“It’s something that, if done properly, is actually quite positive because it actually starts to line your system up to actually work on what you are actually trying to accomplish,” Dewar explained. “It is not to say that the current system wasn’t working well, but we do know that as you move forward things can change and actually assist you some more and support better quality of care and more effective care.”
But Dewar adds you can’t get rid of administrative staff wholesale because they have an important role in supporting front-line workers.
It is a different reaction from the Saskatoon health region, the province’s largest. CEO Dan Florizone wonders whether he and other administrators will have jobs at the end of this process.
“Whatever a change is signaled what happens is, before we can figure out what this looks like, and obviously we would leave that to the commissioner, there is always a level of anxiety,” Florizone maintained.
As part of the government’s intent to reduce health care spending, the health regions are receiving $7.5 million less in a drive to reduce administrative costs.
In budget 2016, the health regions received $3.4 billion for operating funding, a 2.3 per cent increase.