On his last day in the Legislative Assembly, Premier Brad Wall reflected on service to the province and its people by asking the question: “did you leave things better than you found them?”
While there will always be more work to do, I believe that if you can answer that question with a “yes”, then you have done your part to leave a legacy that is worthy of this province.
Health care is one area in which I am proud of our government’s record. For the past decade, we have worked to reverse the NDP’s record of decline that forced health care professionals to leave the province and put Saskatchewan patients on the longest wait lists for surgery in Canada.
Since 2007 our province has successfully recruited more than 750 new doctors and 3,400 nurses of every designation; we are building new hospitals, opening long-term care facilities and we have gone from having the longest surgical wait times in Canada to among the very shortest.
According to the latest Fraser Institute survey of doctors, patients in our province are receiving elective health services sooner than patients in most other provinces. The results rank Saskatchewan as having the second-shortest waits in Canada for those seeking medically-necessary elective treatment when the time waiting to see a specialist and the time waiting for treatment are combined.
Based on estimates from physicians across the country, Saskatchewan is tied for first in the country for wait times for CT scans and ultrasounds. While the survey ranked Saskatchewan fifth for MRI wait times, the capacity for MRI services in Saskatchewan has more than doubled in the past decade to meet demand. CT capacity is also up 48 per cent.
The Ministry of Health has been working with physicians and patients to develop innovative approaches for reducing the amount of time patients wait from referral to seeing a specialist.
Physician groups that have adopted the new referral model have seen significant reductions in wait times and an increase in the level of patient and physician satisfaction. The number of specialists in Saskatchewan increased 18 per cent from March 2014 to March 2017.
Based on the Fraser Institute’s survey results, the report estimates that Saskatchewan’s wait times for psychiatric services are the fourth-shortest in Canada. Provincial government spending on mental health and addictions services increased 44 per cent from 2007-08 to 2016-17.
This year, as part of an effort to improve service, Accountable Care Units were established at Pasqua Hospital in Regina and St. Paul’s Hospital in Saskatoon.
Accountable Care Units create a unique team environment in which physicians, nurses, occupational and physical therapists, social workers and dieticians work closely together to provide prompt, effective care for patients. Patients with complex care needs are receiving more timely and effective care. Planning is also underway on improvements to ensure coordinated care for those with complex needs who may need to transition from the community to the hospital and back again.
These units are part of our Connected Care Strategy, to transform the health system and improve the way care is delivered for patients who have complex care needs. The changes in care are part of the health system’s effort to reduce hospital congestion, thereby shortening emergency department wait times and improving timely access to health care for patients.
In the coming year, more Accountable Care Units will be created in Regina and Saskatoon which means we’re making good progress toward our government’s goal of helping patients come home from a hospital stay sooner, healthier, and with less chance of a return visit.
Just a reminder – Saskatchewan residents with provincial health coverage who have not yet received health card renewal stickers in the mail, should contact eHealth Saskatchewan (eHealth).
Health card renewal packages were mailed to all residents with provincial health coverage earlier this fall. These included updated stickers that will renew health cards for a three-year period.
The most common reason why people do not receive their renewal stickers is because they have moved and not updated their address with eHealth Saskatchewan.
Most health cards expire on December 31, 2017. Residents can update their address, as well as personal and family information, online at www.eHealthSask.ca.
At a time of year when many of us gather to reconnect with family and friends, consider our blessings and reflect on the past year, I want to say Merry Christmas to you and yours, Happy Holidays and best wishes for good health, happiness and prosperity in 2018!