Saskatchewan

Single health-care authority no 'panacea,' Sask. health minister says

Changes like a possible move to a single health authority might save some dollars, but they won't fix the long-term financial challenges Saskatchewan health care faces, Health Minister Dustin Duncan says.

Dustin Duncan says letting private sector handle more non-core services could be way to go

Switching to a single health-care authority would not be a panacea for the financial challenges the system faces, Health Minister Dustin Duncan says. (CBC News)

Changes like a possible move to a single health authority might save some dollars, but they won't fix the long-term financial challenges Saskatchewan health care faces, Health Minister Dustin Duncan says.

"They'll help, but it's not going to balance the budget and it's not going to put Saskatchewan health care on a sustainable path moving forward 20 to 30 years," Duncan said.

Saskatchewan has 13 health regions, a number of which are running deficits, while Alberta Health Services is the single health authority for that province.

We're expecting to see between $30 [million] to $35 million less in transfer payments next year even with our per-capita share of home-care dollars.- Saskatchewan Health Minister Dustin Duncan

"The structure is important ... but it's not a panacea," Duncan said. "It's not going to get us where we need to go."

The Regina Qu'Appelle Health Region deficit — which was $15 million last year — is only one of the issues the health care system is dealing with.

Federal health funding is another. The provinces are working with the federal government to put a new health accord into place.

The previous deal called for 6 per cent increases annually, but that will soon drop to as low as 3 per cent.

New federal home-care money promised

In an interview Thursday with Morning Edition host Sheila Coles, Duncan noted that new federal home-care money has been promised — worth $3 billion across Canada over four years — but that won't change the overall direction. 

"We're expecting to see between $30 [million] to $35 million less in transfer payments next year even with our per-capita share of home-care dollars," Duncan said.

What is working for Saskatchewan, meanwhile, is shifting none-core services, such as laundry, to the private sector, and even outsourcing certain surgeries, he said.

"If it's core, let's do it very well. If it's not core, let's find somebody else," he said.

In the long term, Saskatchewan needs to look for more of those kinds of saving opportunities, he said.

"It's going to mean some difficult conversations because there's more of those types of conversations that we need to have," he said.

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