Pubdate: Wed, 27 Dec 2017
Source: Regina Leader-Post (CN SN)
Copyright: 2017 The Leader-Post Ltd.
Author: Pamela Cowan
Page: A2


This past year has seen massive changes in Saskatchewan's health care
landscape. Postmedia reporter Pamela Cowan spoke with Health Minister
Jim Reiter about the impact of some of those changes on residents now
and in the future.

Q When marijuana is legalized in July, are you concerned about
increased addiction or drugged driving in the province?

A There's been some work done in Justice, work done with the Crowns on
the best way we can deal with it, but I'm very concerned about the
safety aspect. … We're concerned about mental health and addictions
right across the piece. It's a priority for us and it will continue to
be a priority for us.

Q The Canadian Cancer Society and the Lung Association are among
health groups recommending 21 be the legal age to buy pot. What will
be the legal age in Saskatchewan?

A That's still to be determined. Health won't be the lead on that, but
we've had some significant discussions about that already and I'm sure
there will be more ... I've had discussions with the Saskatchewan
Medical Association where they're very concerned, and I share those
concerns, about an appropriate age because of the impact it can have
on brain development.

Q In the past, you've said the move to a single health authority is
more about improving patient care than cutting costs. How much will be
saved by going to a single entity?

A Even with some senior management positions eliminated, severance
packages need to be paid as well, so there are some offsets. In the
first fiscal year, the sort of savings you'll see between some
governance costs with the elimination of the boards, some senior
management positions eliminated and with the IT consolidation, we're
expecting in the range of $10 million and $20 million dollars of
savings in those areas alone . ... There will be efficiencies found.
That was the Alberta experience. The primary driver is that we need
consistency of health care across the province.

Q How many Saskatchewan health-care workers will lose their jobs and
in what areas?

A It's going to be senior management. This is not going to affect
frontline care. Although in the long term, we expect it to improve
frontline care because we'll be acting more as one system . ... We're
going to be going from 12 CEOs down to one, we're going to be going to
far fewer vice-presidents . ... It will be happening

Q Will we see more health-care services, such as MRIs, done by private
providers? A I don't think the move to the single health region will
specifically increase or decrease that. Those were more strategic
decisions. We'll continue to consider those sorts of things. As much
as the MRI program was a bit of a bone of contention with the federal
government, we just think that makes a lot of sense. It's been showing

Q Alberta decentralized control and created five geographic areas,
each area with a clinical and operational leader. Will Saskatchewan
follow suit?

A We want to act like a single unit, but we're also very sensitive to
the fact that the head office is in Saskatoon. But that doesn't mean
everything needs to be in Saskatoon. With the technology we have
today, people can communicate easily without everyone being in the
same location. We're using a decentralization management structure, so
you're still going to see management people in Regina, Moose Jaw,
Prince Albert and other communities.

Q Have you heard concerns from residents in rural Saskatchewan who
have problems getting to Regina or Saskatoon for medical appointments
because of the loss of STC?

A While it tends to be a bone of contention politically, the reality
is a huge number of communities in the province didn't have STC
service. To use my own area as an example, Rosetown did, but prior to
the re-distribution both Outlook and Eston, two of the larger centres
in my constituency, haven't had bus service for years. People there
still arrange to get to medical appointments.

. The fact that we'd be subsidizing a bus company to the tune of $10
million to $20 million that not many people were using for medical
appointments, I think that money can be far better used for medical
care. (The province later said Reiter's office received fewer than 20
calls related to the end of STC).

Q You said mental health would be top of mind when dealing with
Ottawa. Where is the province going with the extra mental-health
funding from the federal government?

A Mental health is a concern right across the country. I think what
hits me is the suicides.

. What I think you'll see in upcoming budgets is incremental increases
in mental-health spending. We're going to make the best use of every
dollar from the extra money we get from the federal government. It's
troubling and we need to continue increasing resources there.
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