A mother whose son has special needs and is in a wheelchair, another woman whose daughter has epileptic fits, a senior who spearheaded fundraising efforts, and children with handmade signs that read “#preecevillestrong” all crowded into the Saskatchewan legislature Wednesday to fight for ER services in the small community.
The Sunrise Health Region announced last week that a rural doctor shortage had forced the closure of ER and acute services in Preeceville until the fall.
The three who came forward to tell their stories were joined by the mayor, town officials and about 75 other residents, to highlight to the government why their service needs to stay open.
The community raised $3.5 million over the last several years to see their brand-new facility expand, only to have it close prior to June 24, when the loan is paid off.
Kim Sandager held her son’s hand and explained how the town of about 1,200 people doesn’t feel it is being heard.
“We feel out of control right now. I don’t feel that we have had a say in this decision,” she said.
Ollie Maksymiw was part of the fundraising effort and maintains the residents want to be part of the solution. In attracting doctors to Preeceville, she says they should be paid more and wonders about the salaries of those in charge.
“I do think there are things that are top-heavy, that leaves us little guys at the bottom suffering,” she argued. “And if you are earning that sort of money, you should be doing a good job of doing your job.”
The top six earners in the Sunrise Health Region earned $1.4 million in 2015.
In answering questions in the legislature, the premier said the government couldn’t force doctors to work somewhere but they were aggressively recruiting in rural areas.
The contingent from Preeceville cited one instance of a doctor being forced to work in Kamsack. Rural health minister Greg Ottenbreit wasn’t sure that was the case.
“We hear rumours from time to time of different doctors being forced out, but when you talk to the doctor leaving little bit of a different story comes out,” he maintained.
Promises of aggressive recruitment wasn’t enough for those fighting for ER services.
“It is really hard to put into words how frustrated we are,” Sandager said.