Legislative Report (4 October 2007)

Health Woes Continue Under NDP

This week, the Saskatchewan Party highlighted the case of Lloyd Siemens from Swift Current. Lloyd was hit with cancer. And like many people, he discovered the treatment available to him after years of NDP under-funding and neglect was less than he needed and certainly less than he deserved.

Back in August, Lloyd began experiencing problems he thought were related to a previous bout of pancreatic cancer. Naturally, he was worried and set out to find if the cancer was coming back. His doctors made three urgent requests for Lloyd to see an oncologist, a doctor that specializes in the area of cancer and its treatment.

These urgent requests were ignored because of a lack of resources in the NDP health care system. Lloyd was told he would not be able to see an oncologist until October. That response wasn’t good enough for Lloyd’s son, Keith. Keith is a chemo nurse who practices in Grand Prairie, Alberta. Because of his knowledge and expertise in the area of cancer treatment, Keith knew exactly what to do, and who to contact.

Within three days of making a request, Keith was able to get an appointment for his father with an oncologist in Medicine Hat. And he was able to begin treatment well before he was even able to get an initial appointment in Saskatchewan. Lloyd was lucky to have a son with the knowledge and expertise required to navigate through the system. The question is: what happens to those people in Saskatchewan who don’t have that help available to them?

The problems Lloyd Siemens encountered can, at least in part, be traced back to the NDP’s failure to have a comprehensive recruitment and retention program for health care professionals in Saskatchewan. Waiting lists will not be significantly shortened until there are more doctors performing more surgeries and more nurses to assist with treatment.

Right now in our province, the Saskatchewan Union of Nurses says current nursing vacancies number over four hundred, and that number is climbing. The vacancy count is based on actual audits done by SUN in health care institutions across the province. Saskatchewan is in this situation because during 16 years of NDP government, RN training positions have been cut, and hundreds of nurses were laid-off. As recently as last year, the headlines read “Taylor refutes nursing crisis allegations”. NDP health minister Len Taylor denied his government’s short sighted and ill advised policies were even causing a problem. Now, with an election drawing near, Mr. Taylor has changed his tune and has announced a series of measures that are too little, too late.

Our neighbours to the east began taking this problem seriously many years ago. NDP Manitoba developed a comprehensive and aggressive health care professional human resources plan. Today, Manitoba has 2000 more nurses than Saskatchewan and twice the number of specialists—serving roughly the same number of people.

Patients in Manitoba can also access a web site where they can find up-to-the-minute information including median wait times for radiation therapy to deal with specific types of cancer, wait times for diagnostic services like MRIs bone density scans, as well as wait times for heart, eye, knee and hip surgery. When you go to this website, you can also discover the median wait time to receive radiation therapy is less than one week.

Five years ago, the NDP promised that cancer surgery data would be made available on a similar website “in the near future”.

Like many other promises from the Calvert NDP, the people of Saskatchewan are still waiting for that promise to be fulfilled.

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

Past Legislative Reports