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Monday Morning Commentary

Rick Swenson

The provincial election campaign will begin sometime during the next 7 days as we now have fixed election dates and we know the election will occur on November 7th. We will all be bombarded with tons of political advertising by both the Sask Party and NDP election committees. Both of these parties have lots of money and will be buying as much space and time as they can. A lot of what we will be subjected to will be totally irrelevant to our everyday lives and making Saskatchewan a better place in which to live. The PC Party is going to do the best it can to put forward its plans, hopes and aspirations for a better Saskatchewan.

The number one topic in a lot of Saskatchewan, particularly in rural communities, will be the state of our health care services and its lack of delivery to people in need. There is a new book out on health care in Saskatchewan by Dr. Lewis Draper and it is causing a firestorm inside the NDP. The book is entitled “Health Care Deform in Saskatchewan” – how not to improve health care. I have not read the book yet but I will certainly find the time. This book is about the decision by the NDP government of Roy Romanow to close 53 rural hospitals, fire 660 nurses and lose countless doctors to other jurisdictions. At the time that this occurred in 1994/95, I was one of the few opposition MLAs that was left after the ’91 election. We pointed out to the NDP government the folly of this move and how there would not be the cost savings down the road that they claimed would occur. I have always felt that this move was part ideology and part simply being malicious towards rural Saskatchewan because of the NDP election loss in 1986. Dr. Draper was a much-respected rural practioner from Gravelbourg who was elected to the Legislature in 1991 by a very narrow margin over Dr. Jack Wolfe on the premise that the Devine government had not done enough for rural health needs. That was ironic because in that riding, there were 5 either new facilities or renovations done in the 1980s. Dr. Draper’s comments now 15 years after the implementation of the health regions and their obvious failures have a lot of New Democrats pointing fingers at each other and doing the old “I told you so” thing with each other. Their timing could not be worse for that political party and the consequences will be evident on election day.

It is even more important that the PC Party and its health care stand be communicated to the voters of this province. The Sask Party has virtually carried on the NDP agenda even though they campaigned heavily in 2007 against it. The reason the NDP changes have not worked is that all of the supposed savings have simply been backfilled with health care bureaucrats at the district and regional level. The frontline health care professionals have not been replaced. The boots on the ground who are necessary to deliver the services have not returned to rural health care services. It is therefore incumbent if we are to use our allotted health care dollars wisely there must be change. That change must occur at the top and it must carry through the system. It is our belief as a party that this can only occur with a reversal of the 1994 decision and that we go back to a system of ministerial responsibility and a responsibility for the department of health to once again provide the services necessary. It is incumbent that the local responsibility which governed our union hospitals and other health care facilities with boards made up of responsible people must be re-established. The boards of directors that now exist with a majority being appointed by whatever party is in power in Regina have simply become apologists for their government’s actions. Politicians in this province want to control the purse strings but they do not want the responsibility of delivering the service. Our system of government only works when there is ministerial accountability.

I believe the PC Party’s approach done over a 4 year period of time can re-establish that ministerial responsibility and re-establish the working relationships amongst the various groups that provide health care services in this province. The disparities which currently exist amongst those groups can be worked out and that we can begin a system of educating young Saskatchewan men and women to be the health care deliverers of the future. This system we currently have where we try to fill our needs by poaching health care professionals from other countries or other jurisdictions within Canada is a fool’s paradise and a recipe for disaster. That disaster is now occurring across much of rural Saskatchewan and is creeping into our larger cities because people do not have access to a family doctor.

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These issues must be debated for “The Right Reasons”.

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