Welcome to the first Monday Morning Commentary by the PC Party of Saskatchewan. There are many issues of great importance to the taxpayers of Saskatchewan that are very topical right now and for which the PC Party has, in the past and currently has, some very good policy alternatives to fix the problems.
Each week I am going to comment on one or two topics, pass it on to executive members, party members and interested folks, looking for comments. The Saskatchewan Party government is blowing some of the best economic times our province has ever seen for building our economy and by not doing so, they are putting our social programs at great risk.
During the last few weeks, we have all seen the issues surrounding health care jump to the front of the queue. Doctors are leaving rural Saskatchewan in droves, SAHO and the health care unions are miles apart, the government is probably going to discontinue covering chiropractic care and waiting times continue to grow. People terminally ill with cancer cannot get the care they need because even then, they are put on yet another waiting list so that they can die with dignity. There is definitely something wrong with this picture and yet Brad Wall and his Health Minster continues to tell us how much better off we are under their direction.
During the last election campaign, the PC Party had a very straight forward platform on health care reform. The basis of that reform was to eliminate the health board structure brought in by the NDP in the early nineties so that they could eliminate 52 rural hospitals and the Plains Health Center in Regina. They had us believe that we would save bundles of money and have better services at the same time. First, they tried appointing these boards and then made some of the folks elected. Costs continued to go up and services down. Waiting lists grew and people increasingly went out of province for health care.
The Sask Party paraded countless individuals and families through the legislature while in opposition to point out the failings of the NDP government and promised us a better day when they finally won. Let’s look at the record of the last two years and see how that record has stacked up against the PC plan of action proposed in the last election- a plan which hardly had any exposure because of the deliberate blocking of our trust funds by Sask Party operatives.
We have witnessed the largest raise given to Registered Nurses that anyone can ever remember. This was not negotiated by SAHO- the umbrella negotiating arm of the provinces health districts, but by caveat of the Premier and the Minister of Health and because the health districts are funded almost 100% by the province, they had no choice but to realign their budgets and accept the consequences. This meant every other health bargaining unit would want something similar for their members in the next round of bargaining which would occur in 2009. On top of this, the Sask Party decided it was time to bring in essential services legislation, pass it and then throw it to their appointed health boards to come up with the criteria for implementation. They effectively removed the right to job action by health care unions and then offer them wage and benefit packages which everyone knows will be rejected. I suppose it would have all worked out except the Sask Party boys and girls forgot to count and ended up with a $2 billion plus miscalculation of the provinces finances. Welcome back to the world of deficit financing, government savings accounts that the provincial auditor calls questionable, all sorts of broken election promises and squandered opportunities to build our economy.
In light of all this, the Premier goes to SARM this past week and admits they don’t have a solution for finding doctors for rural areas and smaller cities except to appoint another blue ribbon panel of their friends and supporters. Perhaps it’s time to admit we have too much bureaucracy and not enough front line service. If SAHO has no say in things like nurses’ salaries and essential services legislation before they are fact and are reliant on the provincial taxpayer for their funding, why maintain the charade of independence?
The truth is the health boards are a convenient way for politicians of all stripes to pass the buck and duck the heat of doing what they were elected to do and that is govern and take responsibility. There are only a little over a million people in this province, that’s the patient service area of base hospitals in major urban areas that are run by a few administrators. Let’s start recruiting our own young people, people who grow up in our towns, villages and farms, help them with the necessary education and then receive a commitment of service back to society in return.
Our military has recruited this way for many years. My own family dentist received his education that way and was very happy to come back to Moose Jaw after serving his time in the army. If we need to do a better job of aptitude testing in high school, is that not better than creating more levels of paper pushers in the health system and taking scarce dollars away from front line service providers? I am a cancer survivor because of front line people being in place in 1987, not because there wasn’t a health board in place. The PC Party was right then and its policy in the last election deserved to be talked about because events unfolding around us daily, tell me that the direction of the Sask Party government and its leadership on the health care issue cannot be trusted. They seem far more interested in commissioning a million dollar study on how to construct a new domed stadium worth over $400 million dollars in downtown Regina than the Children’s Hospital in Saskatoon.
These issues must be debated for “The Right Reasons”.