Saskatchewan

Sask. NDP raises concern about ER disparity between Regina and Saskatoon

The Saskatchewan NDP is again raising an internal memo regarding health care in the province - this time from ER doctors in Regina asking the Saskatchewan Health Authority to lobby the government to hire more doctors.

Regina ER doctors asked health authority to lobby government

The Saskatchewan NDP say the government is not doing enough to close the gap in emergency room wait times between Regina and Saskatoon. (CBC News)

The Saskatchewan NDP is again raising an internal memo regarding health care in the province — this time, from ER doctors in Regina asking the Saskatchewan Health Authority to lobby the government to hire more doctors.

On Monday, NDP Leader Ryan Meili raised the memo in the assembly. It was obtained through an access to information request.

The memo titled "Emergency Physician Staffing in Regina" was written by the leadership of the emergency room departments in Regina and sent to senior officials within the Saskatchewan Health Authority in July.

"The Regina Department of Emergency Medicine has historically been underfunded with regard to emergency physician staffing," the memo said.

"[Emergency physician] resources are required to bring Regina's performance closer to Saskatoon's."

In May, the average ER wait time in Saskatoon was 2.8 hours, while patients wait an average of 5.3 hours in Regina's emergency room. Regina's wait time was also higher than Prince Albert, Lloydminster and North Battleford, which had an average around three hours.

"If decreasing physician initial assessment time and Emergency Department length of stay remain a high priority, the most significant variable left to address in Regina is to create equitable staffing scenarios at the tertiary centres."

According to the ER leadership, Saskatoon was funded for 35 full-time equivalent (FTE) emergency doctors, with an additional eight dedicated to the pediatric ER, while Regina had 31.3.

The authors of the memo recommended, "the SHA lobby the ministry of health to increase the funded FTE for Regina EM to a minimum of 37 FTE."

Waits 'continued to climb'

The NDP has been raising wat time and staffing concerns in emergency rooms in specifically Saskatoon and Regina for the majority of the fall sitting.

In response to the issue of busy ERs, the SHA has set-up a command centre to deal with pressures.

Meili said the responsibility to fix the staffing discrepancy and improve wait times falls to the Minister of Health Jim Reiter.

"He's responsible for ensuring that wait times are reasonable," Meili said.

"If wait times we're going down, I'm sure he'd be very happy to be taking credit but since they had been going up and the docs are saying there aren't enough physicians there to work suddenly it's somebody else's problem."

Meili said the province has constantly changed its wait time target from a promise of eliminating waits, to a reduction of 60 per cent and then 30 per cent.

"Now they've said that there will be some reduction and yet what we've seen instead is the exact opposite numbers have continued to climb." 

Following question period and before speaking to reporters, Reiter said he spoke with a senior official within the SHA who told him that since the memo was written, three full-time doctors were hired, leaving a gap of 1.6 FTEs between Regina and Saskatoon.

Reiter said the memo was a "fair explanation at that point in time but a lot has changed since then."

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 12 years. He hosts the CBC podcast On the Ledge. Follow him on Twitter @AHiddyCBC. Contact him: adam.hunter@cbc.ca

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