Putting Patients First in Saskatchewan: A Small Step Forward
The Saskatchewan government recently entered into a contract with the Omni Surgery Centre in Regina and is now finalizing one with the Saskatoon Surgicentre to provide a certain number of day surgeries for patients in the province. The contracts are good news for some of the 26,915 Saskatchewan patients currently on waiting lists in the public health care system.
Both private facilities already perform surgeries on patients belonging to groups that fall outside of the public health care system, such as the provincial Workers’ Compensation Board, and patients paying directly for services not publicly funded.
The provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, and Ontario often contract with private facilities to deliver publicly funded health care services. Lower overhead costs and the option of using non-unionized employees enables many private facilities to provide timely access and cost-effective services.
Unions representing 25,000 health care workers in Saskatchewan including the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Health Care Council, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and the Saskatchewan Government and General Employees Union (SGEU), reached a tentative agreement with the government in August. Their contract, which comes into effect after ratification by union members, includes wage increases and retention of their extended health benefits plan.
The CUPE Health Care Council plans to protest the new private surgical contracts claiming that patients can receive surgery at public facilities out of province for less money. It is interesting to note that unions are protesting the surgical costs for patients at the same private facilities to which their own members are provided expedited access through workers compensation.
Perhaps if these unions were to consider some of the additional costs borne to patients on surgical waiting lists, like deteriorating health and quality of life, they would be more supportive of this small step towards “putting patients first” in Saskatchewan.