The Regina Qu'Appelle Health Region has started booking surgeries at a private clinic — although it's being done under the publicly funded health-care system, the government says.

To help cut down on surgical waiting lists, dental surgery and certain arthroscopic procedures will be done at the Omni Surgery Centre in Regina, the Health Ministry said in a news release Monday.

The government said it wants to reduce surgical wait times to no more than three months by 2014 and hopes that using clinics will help it eliminate backlogs.

According to Health Ministry statistics, almost 27,000 patients across Saskatchewan were on surgical waiting lists as of June 30.

Of the roughly 40,000 patients who received surgery in the first six months of the year, about 7,200 had to wait longer than three months. About 800 had been waiting more than 18 months.

Health Minister Don McMorris said the private clinics will be used within the existing health-care system. Patients won't have to pay and no one will be allowed to jump the queue, McMorris said.

The government also said surgeries done at Omni Surgery Centre cost less than the same procedures done at a hospital.

Knee surgeries will cost $1,500, saving the government $179 or 11 per cent per procedure, while dental surgeries, at $965, will be cheaper by $76 or seven per cent, the province said.

The Opposition NDP said having CT scans done by a third party is "a step down the road" to the privatization of health care.

The Saskatchewan union of nurses said it is concerned public health care will be eroded as resources shift to the private sector.

With file from The Canadian Press