With rural healthcare stretched to the brink in Saskatchewan’s east, the leader of the Sask. NDP made several stops on Tuesday to speak to healthcare workers and tour facilities in four different communities.
Carla Beck, MLA for Regina Lakeview and opposition leader, began her day at St. Peter’s Christian Hospital in Melville.
The facility has been hit with six temporary closures within the past month, and it isn’t something that’s just tied to one singular ward, like some hospitals in Saskatchewan.
Cooks, nurses, technicians, the staffing shortage causing the closures have been vast, according to CUPE Saskatchewan.
“Sometimes the closures when we’re on bypass, it’s not because we’re missing a doctor or nurse, its because we don’t have the diagnostic imaging,” explained CUPE President Judy Henley.
“Those are important features of healthcare that aren’t there right now.”
Beck commented on the ongoing shortages, saying it hasn’t been easy to get “predictable healthcare” in the area.
“You hear real-time stories about people driving to a local centre expecting emergency care finding a note on the door saying nope, you have to go down, turn your car around,” she said.
As of Wednesday afternoon, 37 facilities in Saskatchewan are dealing with disruptions in service, from border to border to border, according to the Saskatchewan Health Authority’s (SHA) website.
“They (residents) want the decision makers to stop pointing fingers and passing the buck,” Beck said. “They want to get to the table and start finding solutions.”
She added that solutions can be found in these complex situations. Beck believes the answers lie locally, with local leaders understanding and looking for solutions themselves.
Beck said these leaders may not have the whole solutions, but they can’t be ignored. When asked, she said her first step in fixing this issue would be admitting Saskatchewan has a problem.
“There are some very localized decisions being made here that are not insuring people the care they need,” Beck explained.
“People need to speak out and demand those answers be sought.”
The Sask. NDP Leader’s tour continued in Yorkton Wednesday afternoon, with a brief news conference.
Beck and her team then traveled to Canora and Kamsack — two areas that have seen their fair share of closures.
Rural and Remote Health Minister Everett Hindley said they are committed to restoring the acute care beds in Kamsack, stabilizing services in Melville, and resolving issues in every community where health care services have been disrupted by the shortage of health care staff and the unprecedented strain put forth by COVID-19.
“We have incentives in place for health care professionals to work in rural communities, and we are actively looking at how we can bolster recruitment of health care professionals to stabilize services in rural communities, recognizing the fact that some communities are more difficult to recruit to than others,” he said in a written statement.