Legislative Report (17 January 2007)

Health Care Woes Continue Under the NDP

The New Year is only a few weeks old, and we continue to see evidence of the NDP’s failure to manage our health care system effectively. The latest disturbing developments came from Saskatoon. Since the beginning of January, nine out of 12 scheduled open-heart surgeries in the city have been cancelled. Senior administrators blame the cancellations on a shortage of nurses.

In addition, the Saskatchewan Party has learned that paramedics are now routinely being asked to make up for the shortfall in experienced nurses. This is far less than an ideal situation. Paramedics are highly specialized and crucial to the effective operation of the health care system. They are the ones responsible for stabilizing patients in the field and assuring their safe transfer to hospitals. When they are being used by hospitals as a stopgap measure to perform other essential duties, it won’t be long before problems crop up in other areas.

And this isn’t the only problem encountered since 2007 began. A memo circulated by the Saskatchewan Party shows that a shortage of nurses forced health administrators to consider the closure of the emergency room at the Pasqua Hospital in Regina. There have also been cuts to the number of beds at a critical care unit in Regina. Combine these problems together with the seemingly routine closure of emergency and other services in rural hospitals this fall, and you begin to see a disturbing picture – a health care system in crisis.

The problem doesn’t appear to be the amount of money that is being spent. A growing percentage of the total government dollars are now being spent on health care. In a recent report, Saskatchewan’s Provincial Auditor wondered if spending in health care is, in fact, sustainable. The real problem appears to be the way the dollars are being allocated. And that appears to be where the NDP has made some serious mistakes.

For example, the Minister of Health has committed a mere pittance to fixing the current nursing shortage. According to some estimates, filling the vacancies that now exist could cost anywhere between $40 and $50 million.

And the NDP continues its stubborn refusal to engage the dedicated front line workers in the health care system in an active and open discussion about how to fix these problems. Instead, the NDP prefers a band-aid approach and is hoping for a miracle. As we’ve seen so far this year, the miracle isn’t happening. The NDP has lost its way when it comes to managing health care. They prefer to bash the federal government, control the message, or just ignore the problem.

In a recent newspaper article, a nurse spoke about the problems at the intensive care unit at Saskatoon’s Royal University Hospital. The unit is too reliant on overtime. Staff is not given the opportunity for further training and education. Management is poor. Space and equipment is described as “archaic” with tubes and cords running all over the room. Given these circumstances, nurses are reluctant to stay in these jobs. They quit, and the shortage continues.

In order to fix these problems, Saskatchewan needs a new vision for health care, one that values the input and opinions of everyone. People simply aren’t getting that from the NDP.

If you have a question about this report or any other matter, just Contact Lyle.

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