NDP criticizes increasing waits for Sask. medical specialist visits

The average wait times for medical and surgical specialists has increased in Saskatchewan over the past two years.

Minister of Health agrees wait times 'too long'

The wait time to see a specialist in Saskatchewan was the subject of debate at the legislature Thursday. (CBC)

The average wait times for medical and surgical specialists has increased in Saskatchewan over the past two years.

NDP leader Ryan Meili raised concerns about the trend during question period on Thursday.

"In the last two years, wait times have increased for all medical specialities by over 30 per cent. Nephrology [kidney specialists], cardiology, respirology, you name it, the numbers are rising and rising rather quickly," Meili said.

The minister of health agreed the wait times are an issue.

"The overall wait times are too long but I know we've made some changes this year, [wait times] had increased over the past few years. This year province-wide we're showing average wait times are down about 15 per cent, so I think it's a move in the right direction," Jim Reiter said.

"It's bit frustrating. We've increased recruitment. We've increased expenditures dramatically, there are 62 per cent more specialists in the province that there was a decade ago," Reiter said. 

These five longest wait times (in days) according to the physician claims database form April 2017 to March 2018 were:

  • Nephrology (284)
  • Respirology (263)
  • Cardiology (230)
  • Gastroenterology (226)
  • Neurosurgery (217)

In nephrology, the wait time increased by 38 per cent over two years. In respirology, the increase was 46 per cent.

Reiter said he thinks one solution is to improve the referral process. He mentioned child psychiatry as one place where the referral process has improved waits.

NDP, health minister share concern over oncologist shortage

Meili called a shortage of gynaecological oncologists "deeply concerning," after the pending departures of two physicians this year.

"It's going to leave the province under-served. People with cervical cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer won't be able to get the care they need in a timely way," he said.

Reiter said the Saskatchewan Health Authority will hire doctors to fill-in in the short term. He said the SHA will be doing a "very aggressive recruitment campaign".

"I'm very concerned. The problem in that area is it's a very specialized area," he said. 

About the Author

Adam Hunter

Journalist

Adam Hunter is the Provincial Affairs reporter at CBC Saskatchewan, based in Regina. He has been with CBC for 11 years. He hosts the CBC podcast 'On the Ledge'. Follow him on Twitter @AHiddyCBC. Contact him: adam.hunter@cbc.ca