The head of the Saskatoon Health Region (SHR) says he’s telling his team to work towards handing over the strongest possible region to a new provincial authority expected to take over by the end of the year.
“What I’ve been saying to our group of leaders is: ‘We press on. We’re going to continue to do what we do,'” said Dan Florizone, SHR president and CEO.
Florizone acknowledged that with amalgamation coming, some among his staff may be concerned about their jobs.
“I think it’s really important to be up front that change is here, that there may be job loss; that it’s guaranteed though – there will be role change,” he said.
Florizone is optimistic the new management structure will help address issues that cross boundaries of the current 12 health regions.
He pointed to overcapacity issues at Saskatoon hospitals as an example.
“When you look at the problem, it’s easy to draw a conclusion that the hospitals are where the problem resides. But in fact, it’s the community level. It’s the local community, wherever the patient has arrived from,” he said.
Florizone said a new, unified management structure would be better equipped to get care to people before problems progress to needing a hospital bed.
“We will no longer be concerned about boundaries. We will be working together as one,” he said.
Room for rural Sask?
A province who knows all too well about forming a singular health region is Alberta.
They did it back in 2008 to little fanfare in rural communities.
“(Those communities) were definitely underserved,” said Danny Smaiel, former board member for the Lakeland health region. “You lose input and you lose that local contact.”
Smaiel, who lives in Lac la Biche, doesn’t believe the amalgamation will work in Saskatchewan.
“It’s been proven time and time again that super boards aren’t effective,” he said. “It’s funny, if you look at Alberta, because they flip flop every few years.”
The province’s former premier, the late Jim Prentice, ran on the platform to bring back health regions in the 2015 election. Prentice was defeated by Rachel Notley, who’s kept the system status quo.
“It’s all about governments having a notion in the public that they’re doing something,” Smaiel said.
“However, it never works out right for them because they ignore the rural voice.”
Smaiel said what small communities such as his own have done to give themselves a voice is create a health commission for advocacy and fundraising purposes.
“Unfortunately, they don’t have any authority, but it’s still a voice,” he said. “The main purpose is to raise funds to get health equipment because the funds usually go to the cities, which is really sad.”
– With files from 650 CKOM’s Bryn Levy and JT Marshall.