Sask. health-care providers want more frontline care through Health Accord agreement

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Saskatchewan’s health future after federal funding agreement reached
WATCH ABOVE: Federal funding for health care in Saskatchewan has been set for the next decade. The money will be put toward home care and mental health services. David Baxter reports on how people on the front lines want to see this money spent as the province looks to save – Jan 18, 2017

Saskatchewan will be receiving $348.8 million from the federal government over the next decade after signing a new health-care transfers agreement.

Of this, $190.3 million is set to be spent on home care. Continuing care aide Rebecca Reynard is happy to hear about this decision, but has some reservations.

“It’s concerning that this is coming at the same time that they’re announcing wage freezes and hiring freezes,” she said.

Finance Minister Kevin Doherty said Monday that all government employers are being asked to keep employee compensation at 2016/17 levels in their upcoming budgets.

“Right now they’re double booking our clients, so we can get in to see everyone that we need to see in a day,” Reynard said.

READ MORE: Saskatchewan reaches health-care funding deal with feds

In Reynard’s view, the best way to improve home care in Saskatchewan is by hiring more front-line staff.

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“You’re already in a situation where you don’t know how long your visit is going to take, it’s running into any break time that you might have, so you add more clients into that,” she explained.

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“You just go, go, go, from the time you start your shift to the time you end it.”

One of the unions that represents front-line workers, SEIU-West, said there is a “chronic understaffing” in healthcare. This includes home care and mental health, the other area getting federal transfer money.

SEIU-West president Barbara Cape believes that investing in more home care professionals would pay off through the rest of the healthcare system.

“If we start focusing on home care as a foundational first step in the healthcare system for our seniors and our most vulnerable; I think if we invest there we can save the rest of our system money,” Cape said.

On the $158.5 million mental health side, Cape says people are falling through the cracks due to difficulty in finding services in a timely manner.

“So we need more psychiatrists, we need more front-line counsellors, and we need more facility-based services that can catch those emergencies,” Cape said.

The Canadian Mental Health Association’s Saskatchewan chapter president, Phyllis O’Connor, would like to see the province start implementing parts of their Mental Health and Addictions Action Plan.

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The plan was introduced in December 2014 and includes recommendations such as developing plans to reduce wait times.

“It’s pretty hard for someone who has gone into emergency, perhaps suicidal, to be turned out and told that it’s going to be three months before they can see a psychiatrist or sometimes six months,” O’Connor said.

Additionally, O’Connor would like to see more money put into community-based services so people care receive care in their hometown where they have family support.

Before decisions on where this money will be spent are announced, Health Minister Jim Reiter said provincial officials will still need to hold more their federal counterparts.

“There’s a lot of details to be worked out yet with the federal government, but we anticipate a vast majority of it will go to front-line care,” Reiter said.

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