Saskatchewan moves to amalgamate health regions into single authority

On Tuesday, the provincial government tabled legislation which would transform Saskatchewan's 12 health regions into a single health authority.

Province's 12 health regions will be transformed into 1 provincial health region

Health minister Jim Reiter anticipates the amalgamation will improve health care efficiency in the province for citizens, regardless of where they live. (Trent Peppler/CBC)

The Saskatchewan government tabled legislation on Tuesday which moves to amalgamate the province's 12 health regions in to one authority. 

The province said moving to a single region will get rid of unnecessary and arbitrary boundaries, which theoretically should improve the province's health-care system efficiency. 

The province is aiming to have the health authority in place before the end of the year, though the change will happen in phases throughout 2017.

The legislation does not outline the structure or composition of the Provincial Health Authority and integrated service areas, or the composition of the board, which still has to be determined.

The move is expected to save the province money but that might not be the case immediately, as severance to the health region executives will have to be paid out.

There are 12 health region CEOs and 62 vice-presidents in the province. Nearly $20 million was spent on executive salaries in 2016.

Unions uneasy

Unions representing thousands of licensed practical nurses and diagnostic technicians in Saskatchewan say there's a lot of angst over the consolidation of the 12 health regions into a single provincial health authority.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees, the Service Employees International Union-West and the Saskatchewan Government and General Employees' Union say people are worried about job losses and patient care when the merger happens this fall.

The health care provider unions say they've been working together to present a proposal to government that would limit the impact on patients.

The proposal says efficiencies could be found by having all three unions at the same bargaining table and likely reaching the same contract agreement.

Union leaders say this proposal is not unique in Canada — similar bargaining structures have been agreed upon in British Columbia and Nova Scotia.

Contracts for CUPE, SEIU-West and SGEU all expire at the end of March.

With files from the Canadian Press