Saskatoon

Big questions remain as Sask.'s new health super-region launches Monday

The managerial ranks of the new all-in-one system haven't been fully fleshed out yet. Ditto the system through which people from communities will provide input to the people running the system.

CEO says parts of the authority still need to be filled out, including stable of lower-level managers

CEO Scott Livingstone is leading the new single health authority in Saskatchewan. (Micki Cowan/CBC)

Saskatchewan's new all-in-one health system finally launches on Monday.

But it's still a work in progress, says the man in charge.

"Dec. 4 is Day 1. There is a multi-year journey to co-design a new system," said Scott Livingstone, the CEO of the Saskatchewan Health Authority.

"The top priority for the organization is to actually get out into the communities across the province, and those include the urban centres, to start having discussions with those communities about what the new system is going to look like."

The province began its move toward amalgamating the province's 12 health regions in to one authority earlier this year.

Brad Wall's government has 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. 

Filling out the family tree

But as it officially launches, one of the areas that still needs filling out is the stable of lower-level staffers — the people below the vice-president line. 

The new authority's organization chart. The lower-level of managers below the vice-president line still needs to be fleshed out, says Livingstone. (Saskatchewan government)

That includes, for example, the person who will oversee the maintenance of 270 health facilities province-wide.

That pool of staffers will be an indicator of the degree to which the new authority will be a smaller corporate entity compared to the 12 separate regions, says Saskatoon health-care consultant Steven Lewis.

"You can't take all of the management out of the local areas. So will they find that they need to add some positions back?" he asked.

"There likely will be some change," said Livingstone on the topic.

Will patients notice a difference?

Behind-the-scenes doings aside, what's actually going to change for patients under the new system?

Livingstone hopes patients getting care from one region to another won't have to repeat themselves so much, for one thing.

"The work that patients have done to identify themselves, and talk about their family history and the things that are their concern, doesn't follow a patient today," he said.

Eventually, under the new authority, "patients shouldn't have to do that."

While all regions have "components" of an electronic health-records system, some regions are further along than others, said Livingstone.

"That is not just an aspirational target. Ultimately it is the way in which we're going to dramatically improve care and patient flow — by having a single health record across the province that follows patients."

Feedback from regions

With only one board of directors overseeing all of the province's health sector, getting health-care feedback from people living in the regions will be important too, said Lewis.

"I think there's a lot of concern, especially in the rural areas, that when you've got one superboard and you've got all of these big urban programs and responsibilities … that the board have time to consider the more local issues that the previous regional boards were able to deal with," said Lewis.

Livingstone says work will begin on developing "community advisory networks."

"There will be an engagement process established through the [Saskatchewan Health Authority] to actually start having those dialogues and engaging with communities on what their expectations are with respect to having a voice," he said.

And while it's been previously said that the new authority will be based in Saskatoon, some senior execs will have their offices in Regina and other communities.

Examples include Andrew McLetchie, the vice-president of integrated northern health, who will work from Prince Albert, and Kevin Wasko, the physician executive for the integrated rural health portfolio, who will rest his stethoscope in Swift Current.

Livingstone added that the lower-level managers that have yet to be hired "will be distributed all over the province."

About the Author

Guy Quenneville

Reporter and web writer for CBC Saskatoon

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