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Monday Morning Commentary

Rick Swenson

Many of you would have noticed the news event from last week where people from the Preeceville area showed up at the Legislature to protest the downgrading of their medical facility. This is happening because of the ongoing doctor shortage in that community and the inability of that health region to recruit and retain doctors.

This is a story that will repeat itself across much of Saskatchewan in the months and years to come. It speaks to the wrong-headed approach of medical professional recruitment carried out under the health region system. I was reminded of this by a recent letter to the editor submitted by Dr. Lewis Draper, a former long-serving physician from rural Saskatchewan, who also served in the Legislature for the riding of Assiniboia-Gravelbourg.

Dr. Draper was a vocal opponent of his government's move toward the health region system and continues to do so through the various changes in his life. I've always appreciated Dr. Draper's forthright comments. In the same article, he also had high praise for the old system of union hospital boards because of their low cost community-minded approach to delivering health care. These people, for all intense and purposes, served on these boards as volunteers. The little bit of remuneration they received for doing their duty in no way influenced their desire to help the community or their particular pet peeve.

An important part of the PC Party's plan for rejuvenating health care put forward in the last election campaign was the formation of patient advisory committees which would be attached to the various health care institutions across the province. These folks would be elected at the same time as municipal elections were taking place and would serve a four-year term. Their honorariums for attending meetings and other tasks relating to health care would be in the same range as a municipal councillor and any expenses would have to be receipted.

The PC Party felt it was very important that local input by responsible citizens who would be chosen by their peers had to once again be part of our health care delivery system. These would not be political appointees and they would not simply be there to be "yes" people for whatever government had control in Regina.

I believe these patient advisory committees would be of valuable assistance when the recruitment of health care professionals was being undertaken by their community. Recruiting people who have a good understanding of the environment that they are going to work in goes a long way to ensuring job satisfaction and in wanting to remain in that work environment for long periods of time.

It will be interesting to see after the budget on Wednesday if the Sask Party government actually has the long-term vision necessary to start ensuring that communities like Preeceville have a health care future.

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

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