Local input still welcome in move to single health region

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By Joel van der Veen

REGINA — Rural residents will still be heard when it comes to their health services, even as Saskatchewan begins its transition to a single provincial health authority.

That was the message from rural and remote health minister Greg Ottenbreit last week, as he spoke with the Leader about the impending changes to the structure of the province’s health care system.

Ottenbreit said Thursday that a gradual transition would be important to avoid the pitfalls that plagued other provinces like Alberta during similar transformations.

The upcoming change from 12 regional health authorities (RHAs) to a single provincial body has also prompted some concerns about a potential lack of local representation.

The minister said that community advisory committees will be able to report directly to the authority board, thus ensuring those local voices are still heard.

“There will be an avenue for communication that way,” he said. “We’ll welcome a strong voice from rural Saskatchewan.”

Part of that input will also come from rural MLAs, Ottenbreit added, saying that elected members will continue advocating for their constituents.

The Davidson-Craik corridor is served by a team of three doctors, and while the arrangement has met with success, it is complicated somewhat since the two towns are in separate health regions.

Davidson, Loreburn and Kenaston are part of Heartland Health Region, headquartered in Rosetown, while Craik is part of Five Hills Health Region, centred in Moose Jaw.

Ottenbreit said the two regions have collaborated well in this regard, but not all issues have been easily addressed.

“There’s still that border that does get in the way from time to time,” he said, adding that moving to one region would remove that boundary and the complications that come with it.

Health minister Jim Reiter announced Wednesday that the government would move forward with replacing the 12 RHAs with one single provincial health authority.

In doing so, the government is accepting the recommendations of a three-member advisory panel, established by former health minister Dustin Duncan in August 2016 to offer guidance on the future structure of the province’s health care system.

In a statement, Reiter said the change was about consolidating administration, not centralizing services, and expressed the government’s commitment to “providing high-quality health services in every part of the province.”

The report also recommended that the authority be governed by a single appointed board of directors, along with system-wide improvements such as the consolidation of administrative support and some clinical services.

The ministry of health has begun planning the implementation of the announced changes, with the goal of bringing the new health authority into being in the fall of 2017.

For the full story, please see the Jan. 9 edition of The Davidson Leader, or call 306-567-2047 to subscribe today.

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