Saskatchewan announces $6.9 billion health care budget for 2023-24

Click to play video: 'Saskatchewan announces $6.9 billion health care budget for 2023-24'
Saskatchewan announces $6.9 billion health care budget for 2023-24
The government announced an additional $431 million to the Ministry of Health's budget in comparison to last year, totaling a 6.7 per cent increase. Nathaniel Dove has more on the new budget – Mar 22, 2023

The 2023-24 budget dropped in the Saskatchewan legislature on Wednesday with record investment in Saskatchewan health care to support recruitment initiatives, infrastructure renovations, and rural health care.

The government announced an additional $431 million to the Ministry of Health’s budget in comparison to last year, totaling a 6.7 per cent increase.

The total health care funds for the province now stand at $6.9 billion for the year. $4.4 billion of which is targeted funding for the Saskatchewan Health Authority, a 4.5 per cent increase over the last year.

“Our government recognizes the importance of maintaining a modern health care system that not only attracts and retains health care workers, but provides world-class care for patients, residents and communities,” Merriman said. “This year’s budget will also build a stronger, more responsive health system by investing in critical and acute care initiatives and anticipating future growth needs.”

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Saskatchewan’s medical recruitment plan, the Health Human Resources Action Plan will receive a $98.8 million government-wide investment. The money will be distributed through the Ministry of Health, advanced education, and immigration and career training.

$11.9 million will support costs associated with the recruitment of 850 internationally educated health care workers over two years including 600 from the Philippines and surrounding areas, 200 from Saskatchewan, and 50 from Ukraine.

Training seat funding is planned to be expanded as well by $28 million to support the continued implementation of more than 550 education seats that were announced at the end of January. $10 million will fund the second year of the 150-seat nursing expansion supported by the University of Saskatchewan, University of Regina, and Saskatchewan Polytechnic.

This expansion is supposed to kick in for Fall 2023, and includes positions of medical lab assistant, continuing care assistant, primary care paramedic, licensed practical nurse, pharmacy technician, clinical psychologist, physical therapist and mental health and addictions counsellor.

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The province also noted that seats for specialized programs not available in Saskatchewan will also be purchased, including respiratory therapy, magnetic resonance imaging technology, diagnostic medical sonography, occupational therapy, electro-neurophysiology and cardiovascular perfusion.

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A new government initiative will try to bring more physician assistants to the province in 2023 to battle staffing shortages although very few details of action were included in the budget.

In September 2022, the government announced the implementation of 250 new full-time positions, and the enhancement of part-time positions. As of February 24, 2023, less than 100 of the positions have been filled.

Click to play video: 'Saskatchewan health critic says investments for health care in 2023’s tabled budget ‘incredibly disappointing’'
Saskatchewan health critic says investments for health care in 2023’s tabled budget ‘incredibly disappointing’

“We need the staffing to happen,” said health critic Vicki Mowat. “In terms of the plan, it’s a lot of training seats for post-secondary which are absolutely welcomed but we are talking about things that are years down the road and very short on details. We don’t even know what the break downs of the seats looks like.”

To incentivize the province’s recruitment programs, the Saskatchewan government said it will be offering rural and remote incentives, student loan forgiveness, and placement bursaries totaling nearly $2.86 million.

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The new budget claims to offer $200, 000 to recent Canadian and international medical graduates who establish a practice in rural Saskatchewan in exchange for five years of service.

Infrastructure investments were outlined in the budget to address surgical wait times as the province set a goal to perform a record $103, 000 surgeries this year, exceeding pre-pandemic levels. Infrastructure highlights include:

  • $98.6M investment for the Victoria Hospital redevelopment project in Prince Albert.
  • $65.7M for maintenance and equipment, which is a 15 per cent increase.
  • $38M investment for the Weyburn General Hospital redevelopment project.
  • $20M investment for the La Ronge Long Term Care project.
  • $10M investment for the Grenfell Long Term Care replacement project.
  • $10M investment for Regina Long Term Care specialized beds.
  • $5.2M in funding for the St Paul’s Hospital Front Entrance Redevelopment in Saskatoon.
  • $2.6 million in new funding to initiate work on other key infrastructure priorities,
    including developing plans for the Rosthern Hospital, Battlefords District Care Centre,
    and St. Anthony’s Hospital in Esterhazy.
  • $1M for the Estevan Long-Term Care redevelopment project.
  • $1M for the Watson Quill Plains Lodge redevelopment project.
  • $500,000 for the Yorkton Regional Health Centre replacement project.
  • $500,000 to continue planning and developing the Regina parkade.

64 permanent acute and complex care beds are to be split between Saskatoon’s Royal University Hospital and Regina’s Pasqua Hospital, using $20 million of the budget.

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Additionally, $39 million will provide long term care homes and senior living support with additional beds and assistants. There were no details on how the long-term care assistants would be acquired.

“If you are a health care worker, working short, burnt out, and hoping that the government will finally listen to medical doctors over their own spin doctors and make bold investments to stabilize our health care system, this budget, it doesn’t help you,” said opposition leader Carla Beck.

“We don’t see anything that is meaningfully going to change the state of our health care system.”

– With files from Global News’ Brody Langager

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