Saskatoon software developer builds map to share Sask. health service disruptions

Joel Hill said the kernel of his idea was inspired by a local doctor who had tweeted a photo of a map put together manually using pins.

Map will be useful in rural Sask., to highlight which services are available, developer says

A sign tells people an emergency room at a hospital is closed between 6 p.m. and 8 a.m.
Joel Hill, the developer of the map, says the map he built will help people see what's available and what's not at a glance. (Jacques Corriveau/Radio-Canada)

A Saskatoon software developer has developed a web map of Saskatchewan Health Authority facilities' service disruptions across the province.

"It's easier to see the information and digest what's happening in the province at a glance," Joel Hill told CBC.

Hill said the web map transforms the information published on SHA website about service disruptions into a view of the provincial map.

Hill said the kernel of his idea was inspired by a local doctor who had tweeted a photo of a map put together manually using pins.

"It highlighted the problems of Saskatchewan really well, but it was all manual. I thought I could do all that automatically, and we will have consistent availability to something like that," Hill said.

"This will tell you what services are available to you close to where you're at. It makes you aware that the services you take for granted may not necessarily be there."

The map will be useful to those in rural Saskatchewan, Hill noted, referring to the example of Biggar's emergency or acute care services that have been temporarily reduced since Jan. 9.

The provincial Ministry of Health and SHA said in an email statement last week that they are aware of emergency departments struggling with staff shortages as human health resource challenges continue to occur across Canada and globally. SHA has not yet responded to a request for comment on the web map.

Andrew Will, interim CEO of SHA, said Thursday recruiting registered nurses and continuing care aids is an ongoing challenge and that SHA is competing with other regions and other provinces.

Will said several factors — retiring health-care workers, delayed surgeries picking back up and staffing shortages — are leading to some regions experiencing overcapacity and disruptions.

LISTEN | Sask. software developer aims to plot health care disruptions on map:

Joel Hill saw a lot of hospital service disruptions being reported, but he wanted to map them out for the public to see at a glance. We hear more about his new website, its limitations, and what further data he is hoping to get from the Saskatchewan Health Authority.

Hill said his map will better help Saskatchewan residents understand the strain the health-care system is under.

"Our province struggled to manage a pandemic. This was an opportunity for me to do something about it instead of just complaining about the problem. I wanted to contribute to the solution."

Hill said the pandemic added to health-care disruptions that continue to the present day. 

"I've learned that the health-care disruptions are not reported if they are younger than seven days," he said. "I was surprised at that."

He said there is a lack of timely information around service disruptions with no accessible data around health-care capacities and statistics on availability of beds. 

"There is a lack of quality information. It's not granular. If you look at the map, there is a mixture of X-ray service disruptions along with emergency room disruptions," Hill said.

Hill said while one of them is more important than the other, they get lumped together in the list.

People are already using the map, but Hill said it's a work in progress and more features will be added in the future.


Pratyush Dayal covers climate change, immigration and race and gender issues among general news for CBC News in Saskatchewan. He has previously written for the Globe and Mail, the Vancouver Sun, and the Tyee. He holds a master's degree in journalism from UBC and can be reached at

With files from Saskatoon Morning


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