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Saskatoon software developer creates map of Sask. health service disruptions

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Saskatoon software developer creates map of Sask. health service disruptions
Saskatchewan's suffering health care system is causing service disruptions to facilities across the province. One Saskatoon resident has created a web app to help inform the public on these disruptions. Tanner Chubey has more – Aug 26, 2022

A Saskatoon full stack software developer has taken it upon himself to create a web map of Saskatchewan Health Authority facilities’ service disruptions.

“I saw that there are a lot of hospital service disruptions in the province right now and there has been for a while and I want to make them more visible for the general public,” Joel Hill said.

Hill said he was inspired by a local doctor who tweeted a photo of a map that was put together manually using pens.

Read more: Staff shortages plaguing Saskatchewan’s health care system

Hill realized he could automate the process, taking skills he uses daily and put them to use for something the public can access.

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It took him about a month to chip away at the project during his spare time.

The website was launched on Sunday and Hill estimates a couple hundred people viewed it the day it went up.

“About once a day, I make an HTTP request to the SHA website, especially to the page where they list all of their outages. I look at the HTML code that was sent back to me and I just go in there and pull out the bits of information I need.”

The SHA posts service disruptions of seven days or longer on its website.

Hill sees this as a problem.

“I think one solution to that is to build on to the web app — have an internet form where someone can submit a picture of an outage sign or submit that there is an outage taking place and then display that alongside the official SHA data.”

Shorter-term disruptions are shared locally through posters, communication with municipal leaders, and other local contacts such as social media channels.

Click to play video: 'Backlog in surgical procedures has Sask Party moving forward with private clinics'
Backlog in surgical procedures has Sask Party moving forward with private clinics

Getting emotional, Hill said he said he cares for his friends, family and the province.

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“I just wanted to do what I could to help. It’s a small thing but hopefully it does some good,” Hill said.

He said his father farms an hour away from a hospital.

“If something happens to him, where does he go if we don’t have a hospital?”

His sister is also expecting her first child.

“It’s only exciting when you know the people you care about are going to be taken care of and we don’t know that right now. I want people to take care and I want people to be aware that there’s a problem,” Hill said.

“The more people that know that there’s a problem, the more people that will speak out and help fix it — that’s what I’m trying to do here.”

The Saskatchewan NDP also brought the health-care system issues up during their press conference on Thursday,

Leader of the Official Opposition, Carla Beck, claimed the government has only spent a portion of the money they received from Ottawa earlier this year to address pandemic-related health-care system pressures, like the backlogs of surgeries, medical procedures and diagnostics.

Earlier this week, Saskatchewan finance minister Donna Harpauer announced the government is expecting a surplus of $1.04 billion for 2022-23. As part of an affordability plan, the government will be sending a $500 tax credit to residents aged 18 and older.

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Harpauer said the government is not using the $450 million it is spending on the cheques towards education and health care because should natural resource prices fall, there wouldn’t be enough revenue to support continued additional spending.

Beck mentioned other ideas, like posting permanent full-time positions rather than temporary part-time positions.

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

Global News has reached out to the health ministry, which did not respond before deadline.

Hill said his app is only a “small part of what is hopefully a bigger solution.”

He said people need to start holding government leadership accountable for the problem.

“Our leaders aren’t going to change course or do anything about it until we demand better from them.”

— with files from Global’s Andrew Benson and The Canadian Press

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