‘Increase in demand’ for Saskatchewan health cards leaves some people without coverage

Click to play video: '‘Increase in demand’ for Saskatchewan health cards leaves some people without coverage'
‘Increase in demand’ for Saskatchewan health cards leaves some people without coverage
WATCH: Saskatchewan's eHealth agency said it’s still processing applications from November 2019 – Mar 5, 2020

Recent applicants for a Saskatchewan health card might have noticed a long wait to get one — or the card not arriving at all.

Saskatchewan’s eHealth agency said it’s still processing applications from Nov. 13, 2019, leaving some new residents like Gerry Barstead without coverage.

“As of Sunday, the first of March, I have no healthcare because my Alberta health card expired,” Barstead, 71, told Global News from his office in Naicam.

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Barstead moved to the town, close to 200 kilometres outside of Saskatoon, on Dec. 1, 2019.

He thought he had plenty of time to get a new health card and applied for one in Saskatchewan in mid-December.

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When moving between provinces or territories, residents have three months to get a new card before their previous one expires. Getting a new card in Saskatchewan usually takes between six and eight weeks.

Except for Barstead.

Now with an expired health card, he has to pay for prescriptions and doctor’s appointments out-of-pocket while he waits for coverage in Saskatchewan.

“That could run into the hundreds of dollars. I endure thousands of dollars,” he said.

“[I have] some medical issues that I have to have resolved fairly shortly. My blood pressure has gone sky-high, so I need help with that.”

“There has been an increase in demand for Saskatchewan health cards over the past year. Currently, we are processing health card applications from November 13th,” wrote eHealth Saskatchewan spokesperson Sara Robertson in an email to Global News.

It’s unclear why the province has seen more demand for health cards in the past year, although Saskatchewan did reach a new population record with 1,174,462 people calling the province home as of July 1, 2019.

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READ MORE: Saskatchewan reaches new population record

When your health card expires, you could have to pay for health coverage yourself.

According to Robertson, residents in the same boat as Barstead need to save their receipts.

From there they can be reimbursed either by the province’s medical services branch for doctor’s appointments and hospital stays or by the Prescription Drug Plan.

“I don’t think it’s reasonable unless you’re an extremely well-off person,” Barstead said.

He said he doesn’t know that many working people who have access to that kind of money while they wait to get a card and be reimbursed.

Click to play video: 'SHA working to alleviate pressure on emergency rooms'
SHA working to alleviate pressure on emergency rooms

EHealth Saskatchewan says it’s hired four temporary staff members to address the backlog, but did not give a definitive timeline for when it will catch up.

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Barstead still doesn’t know when his card will arrive.

“I want my health card, it’s that simple. I think I’ve been very patient. It’s been two and a half months.”

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