According to the Saskatchewan Health Authority, 35,608 surgeries were performed in the province between Jan. 1 and May 31 of this year. That is 5,000 more than the 30,598 surgeries performed in 2021.
But the SHA says surgical volumes across the province have not yet recovered to pre-COVID levels. The average amount of surgeries completed before the pandemic hit was around 89,000 procedures. The Ministry of Health and the SHA are implementing a plan to expand system capacity and achieve at least 97,000 surgeries in 2022-23.
This reality has the province looking to find private clinics to fill the gap. The Saskatchewan government announced on Tuesday that it wants a privately run orthopedic surgery clinic to be built in Saskatchewan as part of an effort to clear a record backlog of postponed procedures. The province says it will issue a formal request next month for a private company to build a site focused on increasing operating room and bed capacity for in-patient joint replacements, as well as a variety of day surgery procedures.
The Ministry of Health says it is also exploring contracting an existing private surgery clinic outside the province to perform hip and knee surgeries for residents on the province’s waitlist.
It’s a decision CUPE Saskatchewan disagrees with.
“It’s very unfortunate that this is the route they are trying to take,” said Mashir Jalloh, CUPE Saskatchewan president. “We have on many occasions provided solutions, suggestions to the SHA.”
Jalloh said he understands the crisis surrounding the growing need for surgeries but said the solution lies in hiring more workers and having more public clinics and hospitals. He said privatization won’t work.
“I visit these hospitals on a daily, weekly basis,” Jalloh said. “The wait time has actually increased in terms of MRIs in which this government has tried to privatize. They have a private company.”
But the Ministry of Health disagrees, and issued the following statement to Global News on Wednesday afternoon.
“We know patients are waiting too long for surgical procedures and are taking action to address this. A private surgical facility outside Saskatchewan would be contracted by the SHA to perform publicly funded orthopedic surgeries. This option would be offered to patients on a fully voluntary basis.”
Those who are in need of surgeries the most are left torn.
“The way things are running now, the quality is definitely going down,” said Jessica Bailey, a kidney transplant patient. “I know that from experience. Just watching it in the hospitals — it’s crazy.”
Bailey said hospitals are in need of more staff, they are overrun. As a patient waiting for a kidney transplant, privatization is a win in her eyes.
“Some people don’t have time to wait for that,” Bailey said.
Bailey said it’s challenging to be healthy enough to receive surgery to begin with and the bigger issue lies in the amount of time it takes to approve a live donor, having missed out on opportunities for a kidney transplant herself due to this reality.