A Prince Albert physician is touring the province to learn what needs to change ahead of a restructuring planned for Saskatchewan’s health regions.
Dr. Joanna Sivertson, an obstetrician and gynecologist as well as vice-president of the Saskatchewan Medical Association (SMA), spoke with the Prince Albert Parkland Regional Medical Association Sept. 14, one of 12 planned stops across the province.
She said so far she’s seen health regions grapple with similar issues, such as access to health care and affiliated services including imaging and diagnostics.
“We’re trying to embark on possible ways of restructuring the way we provide services to our patients in order to give them what they need in a timely fashion,” she said.
Many patients have to travel to Saskatoon or Regina to see specialists or for tests, a system which Sivertson said places undue pressure on urban centres.
“We need consideration for our rural and regional sites,” she said. “Saskatoon and Regina are already bursting at the seams. They need our assistance to keep patients out…so we need to take advantage of the excellent care that can be provided outside of those centres.”
Redesigning the health system to be more inclusive toward rural health regions is the long-term goal for the SMA.
A desire for care closer to home including everything from surgery, birth and hospice care, is what Sivertson said she’s heard the most during her tour.
Expanding medical services away from large centres like Regina and Saskatoon is also important for a switch from acute care to preventative care, according to Siverston.
“We can keep people out of the hospital where the biggest expenses are and keep them healthier right from the start,” she said. “We’re trying to explore how physicians can fit into a better and more efficient system. If we keep doing what we’re currently doing, we’ll bankrupt the system.”
Siverston’s tour is happening at a critical time.
In October, a three-person advisory panel will submit its recommendations to the province on how to trim the administrative structure within the health regions and how to reduce the total number of regions.
“We’re on a real time-crunch,” Sivertson said.
Overall Sivertson said engagement from physicians on the tour has been enthusiastic and informative.
“I’m always inspired by the passion with which some physicians will advocate for their patients,” she said. “It’s always optimistic to see the people who are working in the trenches and seeing what they’re doing with the resources they have.”