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Saskatchewan to send patients to Alberta for privatized surgery, won’t pay for travel

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Health Minister Paul Merriman says the Saskatchewan Party government will begin paying a Calgary clinic this fall to perform 20 knee and hip surgeries a month for those on Saskatchewan’s surgical wait list – Aug 18, 2022

Saskatchewan says it will be sending people to Alberta to get privatized surgeries, but the cost of travel won’t be covered by the government.

Health Minister Paul Merriman says the Saskatchewan Party government will begin paying a Calgary clinic this fall to perform 20 knee and hip surgeries a month for those on Saskatchewan’s surgical wait list.

Read more: Saskatchewan Health Authority issues request for 3rd-party surgical provider

He says if a patient has the option to go to Calgary, they will have to incur the travel expense.

Merriman says sending patients for privatized care out of province will result in patients having their surgeries done faster.

He says it will also open up another spot within Saskatchewan’s public system.

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Read more: Saskatchewanians waited longer for surgery than any other Canadians in 2021: report

NDP Opposition Leader Carla Beck criticized the delivery of out-of-province privatized care, saying the government is creating a two-tier health system that prioritizes people who have more income.

Dr. Bill Dust is the area department lead of surgery for Saskatoon, and says the biggest hurdle is how many nurses hospitals can get.

“Our great limiting factor to how many patients we can get to the operating room now is mainly nursing. And second to that is anesthesiology,” said Dust.

“Governments come out and say, well, we’ll make these private clinics. Then you say, well, who’s going to work in the private clinics? Because we don’t have enough nurses and anesthesiologists in the province to do what we’re trying to do now.”

In a statement to Global News, the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) said five out of nine “operating theatres” are currently running at Saskatoon’s Royal University Hospital (RUH) due to health-care workers taking summer breaks.

“This aligns with staffing resourcing for the summer, which includes surgeons, anesthesiologists and any required nursing staff,” SHA’s statement read.

During normal, pre-COVID operations, the SHA said six to seven operated theatres would be occupied daily on average.

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In September, the SHA said they will increase staffing levels “in line with our planning for increased surgical volumes in Saskatchewan for this year, with a goal of 97,000 procedures.”

With files from Global News’ Nathaniel Dove and Kelly Skjerven

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 17, 2022.

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