Provincial Health Minister Dustin Duncan discussed several issues related to health care in Estevan and in Saskatchewan during a recent visit to the city.
Duncan, who is the MLA for Weyburn-Big Muddy, was the keynote speaker at a fundraising dinner for the Estevan Saskatchewan Party Constituency Association on October 18. Duncan told the crowd that he was seated at a table with local physicians and healthcare administrators. He said he will come back to Estevan in the future and meet with hospital representatives and physicians for more in-depth discussions.
Among the issues that they discussed was the need for a CT scan at St. Joseph's Hospital in Estevan.
“Part of it depends on when a proposal would go forward for review from me to treasury board, and there’s a whole process that’s involved,” said Duncan. “It’s really too soon, at this point, to put a timeframe, on, if we decided to go down this route, when it might take place.”
They also discussed issues connected with the recruitment and retention of health care providers, the construction of a helipad near the hospital for the STARS Air Ambulance Service, and the potential for a residency program in Estevan.
Communities such as North Battleford, Swift Current and Prince Albert now have a residency program, which is part of a physician's training. Swift Current, for example, has four residency spots during each intake. If Estevan secures a residency program, Duncan doesn't know how many spots would be allocated to the Energy City.
“Because those residents are training underneath physicians that are already established, it depends on a ratio that is appropriate in terms of the proper supervision and oversight,” said Duncan.
Duncan said that the province needs to be more innovative with its operational and capital expenditures for health care. Many health care facilities in the province are aging. Health care spending is budgeted to be $4.6 billion this year, which well above 40 per cent of the overall provincial budget. Duncan expects the health budget could be $5 billion next year.
LEAN principles have been applied to health care facilities around the province, including the new children’s hospital for Saskatoon.
“What that has enabled us to do is to design a building that is 20 per cent smaller by being more efficient with the space that we build,” said Duncan. “The physical building is going to be 20 per cent smaller, without sacrificing a single service that the original design was built on, and it’s going to save us over $30 million.”
The government is also making progress on surgical wait times, he said. The Sask. Party's goal is that by March of 2014, nobody will wait more than three months for a surgery offer. Improvements have occurred because the number of surgeries has increased at hospitals and in health regions. They have also changed how patients are referred to specialists, and they have third party partnerships to deliver surgeries in Regina and Saskatoon.
A lot of work remains, he said, but 84 per cent of Saskatchewan residents are now receiving surgery within three months.
A live auction was also part of the event. And a couple other Sask. Party MLAs – Agriculture Minister Lyle Stewart and Moose Jaw Wakamow MLA Greg Lawrence – joined Duncan and Estevan MLA Doreen Eagles at the banquet.