Physicians from across Sask. meet in Regina to address health care changes

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WATCH: The future of Saskatchewan health care is being debated. Physicians from across the province in Regina discussing how they're going to best provide care in a changing landscape. To make things more challenging, the government is planning on amalgamating health regions. David Baxter has more on their discussions.

Physicians from across Saskatchewan are gathered in Regina this weekend to discuss how they can best provide care in a changing landscape.

Adapting to transformational change is the main discussion point at the Saskatchewan Medical Association’s (SMA) fall assembly, which runs Friday and Saturday.

SMA President Dr. Intheran Pillay said he wants the organization to be a “central pillar” in the ongoing discussions on how to change the way health care is delivered in the province.

“We are cautious about the restructuring of course. Any change can be disruptive, but we are keenly interested in efficiencies that can be gained in the system,” Pillay said.

In August, then Health Minister Dustin Duncan unveiled the three-person panel that is guiding the transformational change process.

READ MORE: Health Minister unveils panel to guide Saskatchewan’s health region transformational change

Their report on health care is expected to be delivered to the Ministry of Health in the next few weeks. Current Health Minister Jim Reiter said it will take him and his staff a few weeks to go over the report, before making public announcements.

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Consultations are taking place, and input on what physicians want to see is being gathered at this assembly.

“There are a number of areas I think could be improved,” Pillay said.

“Timeliness of care can be improved, ER overcrowding can be improved in terms of our admissions can be improved, the safety within our health care system can be improved.”

Doctors feeling burnt-out by their workload is another area of concern addressed by Pillay. These challenges can be amplified in remote communities like La Loche, Sask. and Ile-a-la Crosse, Sask, where Dr. Melanie Flegel is a family physician.

“We are often faced with a special set of challenges working in a very small practice in a widely-spaced community, very under served,” she said.

During the question and answer session with Reiter, Flegel asked what transformational change can bring to the north with their resource challenges.

She acknowledged there have been improvements, like the remote medicine program and mental health nurse stationed in La Loche.

However, Flegel said cutbacks on the physician side have resulted in less flexibility in how they deliver care. Additionally, the mental health nurse is being pushed to her limit.

READ MORE: Candle light vigil held in La Ronge after sixth youth suicide in northern Sask.

“We need numerous more people in her role in that community, as well as in the other surrounding communities,” Flegel said.

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Reiter said taking a look at what resources are needed in the north is a priority, especially in the wake of the recent youth suicides.

Finance Minister Kevin Doherty announced the deficit is higher than originally forecast earlier this week, and Reiter said tough choices will need to be made as the province tries to balance the budget.

“Approximately 40 cents of every dollar the provincial government spends is on healthcare. So we have to recognize that,” Reiter explained.

One area where savings will be found is by combining some health regions, which will cut down on administrative costs. Reiter said other saving measures will need to be found.