After the federal government and the province of Saskatchewan reached an agreement Wednesday that will send $61 million in funding to the province’s health-care system, Saskatchewan health-care workers are voicing their opinion on where they would like to see the money go.
Part of the funding will come to the province now, while an additional $111 million will be added annually to the $6.4-billion health-care budget.
Saskatchewan Union of Nurses president Tracy Zambory says more money must be spent on dealing with the province’s registered nursing shortage.
“We know that Health Canada has spoken that it needs to be for emergency rooms, pediatric emergency rooms and wards and surgical wait times and we agree with that,” Zambory said.
“But at the end of the day, without registered nurses in this province, it won’t matter how much money we put into any program, if there aren’t registered nurses there to actually make the program run, we’re not going to get anywhere.”
The province says the money will be used to accelerate or enhance new measures aiming to improve primary health care, surgeries, and mental health and addictions services.
Zambory hopes to speak with Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe and Health Minister Paul Merriman on how the province can keep nurses on the floors of Saskatchewan hospitals.
“I speak with registered nurses every day from across the province, and there is not a regional hospital or a municipality that has not been profoundly affected by this nursing shortage.”
Andries Muller, the president of the Saskatchewan College of Family Physicians, is happy to receive the extra funding from the federal government.
“I’m very happy that we finally have a little bit more money coming into the budget,” Muller said. “It’s obviously never enough and everyone is going to say that, but I think it’s better than not getting anything at all.”
Muller hopes a large portion of the money goes toward recruiting and retaining family physicians.
“No one is able to find a new family physician right now. And those who do have a final family physician are not able to actually get in to see them in a timely matter,” Muller said.
He believes the lack of family physicians is adding to the stress of the physicians that are available.
“People get burned out and they might have been able to postpone retirement for a few years, but now they’re overwhelmed and they just decide to retire early,” Muller said.
It’s a cycle that doesn’t attract new recruits out of university.
“We’re not able to recruit new family physicians to the province, and the graduates that are currently finishing residency are not really interested in working in a system where they see that family physicians are totally overwhelmed and burnt out,” he said.
In a recent statement from Moe, he said the number one thing the province is trying to address is the number of qualified people working in the field, with the second priority aiming to address surgical wait times.