It appears that the recent Sask Party cabinet shuffle, which has concentrated most of the political power in the hands of the Premier and a few select Ministers, has now shown another example of how this will affect Saskatchewan.
The Premier popped up out of no where late last week and announced about a $60 million health care facility on crown land next to where the Plains Hospital was in south Regina. I say about $60 million because the government doesn’t have a clue what this building will cost, what its mandate will be and how distant in the future it will be a reality. The newly minted Minister of Health stood tentatively by and applauded the Premier and not much else. Our new Minister of Health is a man with virtually no experience at anything in life other than working in the Sask Party caucus office before being elected MLA for Weyburn. His experience as a junior minister responsible for SaskWater and Recreation is not much of a background for Saskatchewan’s largest budget item. Obviously the Premier designed things this way so that he and his group of advisors will now dictate the direction of health in the province of Saskatchewan.
This move is quite puzzling because during last fall’s election campaign, there was no mention of such a facility because all of the focus was on the new hundred million dollar “lean” technology regional health centre to be built 40 minutes down the road at Moose Jaw. This new facility at Moose Jaw, even though it has less beds than the old Moose Jaw Union Hospital, was supposedly able to take some of the pressure off of Regina because people from the South Country would be able to use this brand new, state-of-the-art facility. Is Moose Jaw going to be cut back now because of the Premier’s announcement in Regina or has the government of Saskatchewan found a new windfall of money somewhere that they can now over-spend the health budget which was just passed a few weeks ago in the Legislature.
We have been consistently told over the last 6 months that there is a shortage of qualified doctors and nurses currently in the Regina hospitals and there was even the suggestion that there has been a bias towards Saskatoon hospitals over Regina hospitals and thus the terrible over-crowding and under performance of the Regina Health Region’s facilities. What this whole thing points out is that the changes brought in by the NDP, the formation of the health regions, the closing of the Plains Hospital and this whole bureaucracy-driven health system of ours does not work. The health regions get their funding from the politicians through the budget process and the politicians basically decide who gets what. We have a system where the politicians can run around making announcements, the regions are suppose to implement the announcements and take the flack when things don’t work. This announcement should have been part of the budget process and along with it, should have been the admission of failure of the current health care delivery system and it is now time for the Sask Party to give up on the NDP health boondoggle and start putting responsibility back on the heads of the elected members not just the feel good announcements. We all know that there must be more resources and a smarter way of doing things if our health care system is going to perform at the level we all want. That means a different approach. A new rookie Minister of Health with no experience in the field who simply takes orders from the Premier and his inner circle is not going to bring the new approach to health care that the public wants and needs. The political well-being of the Sask Party and its Ministers is not the number one priority. Getting people off the stretchers in the hallways of our hospitals and providing the care they need should be the number one priority. That takes thought and due diligence - not photo-op politics for the Premier and his Ministers.
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These issues must be debated for “The Right Reasons”.