SARM calls for more rural medical support, noting it would help urban centres

Click to play video: 'SARM voices concerns over healthcare in rural Saskatchewan'
SARM voices concerns over healthcare in rural Saskatchewan
The Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities (SARM) is voicing its concern over what it says is a lack of rural health-care support. – Feb 21, 2023

As health-care concerns continue in Saskatchewan, a voice for smaller communities said more needs to be addressed in rural parts of the province.

“It’s really an integrated system, and when part of the system fails it puts pressure on the other one. So we believe if more can be done in rural Saskatchewan, we can actually take pressure off the larger urban centres,” said Ray Orb, president of the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities (SARM).

Orb said they’ve seen a lot of emergency centres close in rural areas.

He added that there’s poor communication between the Saskatchewan Health Authority and rural municipality residents as far as delivering care.

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“We know there are physician shortages out there in rural Saskatchewan, and really across the province.”

He said there is a shortage of nurses as well.

“People really are forced to travel to urban centres, and we believe more can be done in the rural areas to help alleviate the problem.”

Orb said this becomes a problem during seeding and harvest, noting that farm accidents are a concern, and many paramedics are wrapped up with patients at hospitals.

Minister of Health Paul Merriman said he has reached out to Orb to discuss some of the issues he brought up.

“We know there are some disruptions in rural Saskatchewan. I think we’ve made some strides forward in the last six months as reopening some (ERs) that were disrupted during COVID-19, and we had to replace some of the staff,” Merriman said.

He agreed that if issues in rural Saskatchewan don’t get addressed, it will roll over into urban centres, creating more stress on hospital capacity.

Merriman said over the last 18 months, the province is up 160 doctors, but added that there are still staffing challenges.

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“There are still some gaps that we’ve identified,” Merriman said.

“We just had last week three Filipino nurses that had arrived in Regina and went out to western Saskatchewan into Swift Current, East, and areas where we had some gaps.”

He said they are actively recruiting specialists in Saskatchewan, and have been for a long time, noting they brought over about 62 specialists in the last two years.

“When we have a lack in one specific area then we actively recruit.”

He said they’ll also make agreements with other provinces to send patients out if they can’t offer a treatment in the province.

“Which isn’t ideal, but at least they’re still getting their treatment.”


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