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Sask government hopes new referral method will speed up medical care

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The Saskatchewan government hopes a new way of referring patients will help to reduce surgical wait times.

Eight groups of specialists have adopted a streamlined process known as pool referrals, where instead of being referred to a specific doctor, the patient’s file would be referred to a pool of physicians.

“Essentially the next available specialist, rather than waiting,” said Health Minister Dustin Duncan.  “This is, I think, a real important part of the surgical initiative in driving down our wait times.”

The Wall government has set a goal to see wait times for surgeries capped at three months by March 2014.  Minister Duncan says by pooling the referrals, patients will receive a diagnosis and treatment plan sooner.

Up until now, family doctors would refer a patient to a specific specialist.  The way the new program works is the doctor will now send the referral to a central location, where the file will then be assigned the first available specialist.

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“It’s hard for the family doctors to know what the waiting lists are in the various areas, and now the beauty of this is they don’t have to keep track of that,” said Dr. Corrine Jabs, head of the Obstetrics and Gynaecology department in the Regina Qu’Appelle Health Region.

“We know who works in our department, we know where the capacity is, and we’ll make sure that their patient sees the appropriate person.”

Currently, eight groups of physicians are using the new approach, another six are preparing to adopt the new approach.

For groups of physicians interested, the health ministry will operate a referral management service through HealthLine.