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Monday Morning Commentary

Rick Swenson

This last week was a very busy one for me and for the province. The second week of January is the Crop Production Show in Saskatoon which draws many thousands of visitors who are interested in the various components of agriculture in our province. This is when many organizations hold their annual meetings and report back to their members. I took the opportunity to attend various meetings, seminars and the very large trade show on Monday, Tuesday and Friday of last week. There are big changes coming in agriculture and I will be commenting on those in the weeks to come and making observations relating to the many conversations I had with individuals while attending the Crop Production Week.

The other issue that has really come forward in the last week is the deplorable situation occurring at emergency rooms in our major hospitals. Regina has been particularly bad with emergency rooms stacking patients in the hallways and in fact, leaving patients there for not simply hours but days while they look for suitable beds. The other situation that is occurring is people with injuries, medical emergencies, sick children and other unfortunate circumstances are sitting 3-4-5-6 hours to see a doctor in these emergency rooms. The only reason they go there is that there are no private clinics available or they simply don’t have access to a family doctor any longer.

So this week our Premier, who is going off to a First Ministers’ Conference in Vancouver next week, makes a whole host of health-related announcements. Announcements which confirm what the PC Party has been saying about our health system for sometime. These announcements by the Sask Party Premier are aimed at assuring people in Saskatchewan that they will not have to wait at an ER, that access to a doctor will be guaranteed and that waiting times for surgical procedures will be brought down to 3 months. He has also announced that people afflicted with MS will be sent to the US for clinical trials starting this spring.

All of these items will require large expenditures of taxpayers’ money, reorganization of people, equipment and buildings and will require direction from the top - i.e. Mr. Wall’s Minister of Health. At no point in all of these announcements has Brad Wall asked SAHO or any of the health regions their opinion or has any consultative process been set forth. We are at a crisis situation with emergency room service and access in this province. The only way to rectify this situation will be to dedicate people and resources and new procedures to solve the problem. The health regions have known about this developing situation for many months. Nurses and other health care professionals have talked about it for a long time. Why have not the health regions and their legions of bureaucrats been able to come up with solutions? The reason is that our structure with the politicians controlling the budget and wanting to have the ability to look like heroes to the voters means that the health regions are simply bureaucratic fall-guys for a flawed process.

Mr. Wall and his Minister of Health need to accept responsibility, bring the issues and the potential solutions to the Legislative Assembly, do away with the health regions and put in place people who are responsible for solving the problems. If they or the Minister assigned cannot solve the problem to the satisfaction of the users – that being us the taxpayer and our families – then you replace them with someone else that can. No longer can we afford to play ring-around-the-rosie with our medicare system and let our elected officials off the hook. They will simply keep blaming medicare rather than getting to the root of the problem.

There are many individuals, groups and politicians who simply say we should privatize our system and get the efficiencies of private enterprise. There have been some good examples of private clinics performing surgeries that help alleviate the backups in our system. I would hate to lose our publicly-funded medicare system in Saskatchewan and Canada because our elected officials don’t have the courage to clean up our current system. The health regions were put in place by politicians for political reasons. They can be removed by politicians for good medical reasons. This all starts with accountability and there is none in the current system. I hope when Mr. Wall comes back from Vancouver he lives up to his commitments and is willing to do more than simply pander to the critics of medicare.

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

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