Saskatchewan doctors say there will be bumps in the road as the province consolidates 12 health regions into one health authority, but they welcome changes that could improve care.
“We realize that this is a mammoth task and it will take some time to carefully plan and implement the move to a single, provincial health authority,” said Dr. Intheran Pillay, president of the Saskatchewan Medical Association.
The Saskatchewan government announced the consolidation Wednesday with Health Minister Jim Reiter saying the move is about better and more effective ways to deliver health care.
Pillay said doctors have concerns about centralization of services and the delivery of care in rural communities.
He said it’s been reassuring to hear Reiter say the consolidation is about administration, not centralization of services, and that the government is committed to quality care in every part of the province.
“I think if it’s done properly, patients will not notice anything at the frontline where care is provided,” said Pillay.
“In the long-term, you know once we get it right in terms of having seamless continuum of integrated care, patients will definitely notice because the system will become more efficient. We’ll try and remove the road blocks that currently exist in terms of fragmented care.”
For example, patients could get in to see doctors faster, he said.
An advisory panel tasked with reviewing the health system structure said in a report released Wednesday that patients with singular, immediate needs are often well served by the health system.
But it also said that’s often not the case for patients with multiple chronic or complex conditions.
The panel also said the engagement of physicians in health system planning and community advisory networks will improve clinical service delivery plans.
It urged the new provincial health authority and Ministry of Health to embed medical leadership throughout the organization of the health system.
Pillay said doctors are ready to help.
“We will be prepared to go out of our way to work with our health system partners to make this work well and to try and make this the best health care system in the country,” he said.
The one provincial health authority is to be created this fall.
Additional concerns have been expressed by unions representing health-care workers and the organization that represents 74 First Nations in Saskatchewan.
The CUPE Health Care Council said one worry is that a central superboard will be less responsive and harder to navigate for patients and communities.
The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations said there’s concern the change is primarily driven by cost-cutting and will lower the standard of care for everyone. The FSIN said it’s time indigenous people develop a health system for themselves.
– By Jennifer Graham in Regina