Regina summit highlights benefits of health region amalgamation

A one-day health summit in Regina Wednesday brought together health professionals from across disciplines to discuss the future of health care in the province.

Alberta Health Services official says it may take up to a decade to see benefits

Alberta Health Services officials Sean Chilton, left, and Brenda Huband, right, say it's worth moving to a single provincial health authority for improvements to patient care and administrative efficiencies. (CBC News)

Doctors, nurses and other professionals gathered in Regina Wednesday to hear from experts about how to improve Saskatchewan's health-care system, including what to expect with the impending amalgamation of 12 health regions into a single, province-wide health authority. 

Alberta Health Services' vice-president of collaborative practice, nursing and health professionals Sean Chilton and Brenda Huband, vice-president and chief health operations officer, were among the registered keynote speakers. 

They were scheduled to deliver a presentation called "How to Mobilize 100,000 People into the 21st Century."

Nearly a decade ago, Alberta amalgamated its nine different health regions and three provincial organizations into a single province-wide health region — a transition the Sask. Party government is hoping to replicate by Dec. 4. 

"As one of the largest mergers in Canadian history, the literature would say that to find and realize the benefits of something like that, it does take nine or 10 years," Huband told reporters. 

$600M in admin savings

Chilton said that about $600 million has been saved in administrative costs since the AHS superboard replaced the smattering of health regions, adding that the province now boasts one of the lowest percentages of expenditures going toward administrative costs. 

Saskatchewan's health minister, Jim Reiter, said that cost savings are certainly anticipated when the Saskatchewan Health Authority comes into effect — for example, having to only pay the salary of one CEO as opposed to 12. But he said that's not the primary reason for the transition.

"The primary driver is to get rid of the arbitrary boundaries that have been affecting patient care," he said.

Access to medical equipment improved

Chilton said other efficiencies noted in a single-health authority model have been realized around the procurement of medical equipment and pharmaceutical drugs. 

He said because a province-wide health region has more purchasing power than smaller ones, access to certain types of equipment is increased for residents in smaller rural communities. 

With files from Micki Cowan