Cabinet ministers take questions from SARM delegates during ‘bear pit’ session

Saskatchewan cabinet ministers took centre stage on Wednesday morning in Regina at the annual SARM convention for their bear pit session.

Over 2,000 delegates have travelled to the Queen City for this year’s event. A select few had the opportunity to question the government on everything from education to health care.

Kim Custer with the RM of Glenside asked health minister Jim Reiter why some health facilities are suffering from deterioration and overcrowdedness in the province.

In her story, she said she went to visit a loved one who was a patient at Royal University Hospital in Saskatoon. However they were transferred to a different hospital, which Custer said she was “disgusted with the filth and overcrowding” and was worried about her safety getting in and out of her vehicle.

Reiter said there are problems that need to be addressed, but added that more problems are present because there are higher demands.

“We’ve been responding with a lot more financial resources into the health system,” replied Reiter. “Since we were given the privilege of forming government, our spending on health care is up about 60 per cent, whereas inflation is up about 21 or 22 per cent.”

However Reiter admitted that in some areas the government needs to do better to address those issues.

Another health care concern was brought up by Krystyn Gillies, a councillor in the RM of Argyle.

Gillies asked the ministers what the government can do to help residents that need ambulance transportation when they live hours away from the nearest hospitals. She said in her area, residents have to wait 30 to 50 minutes for an ambulance to arrive, and would require that same time frame to the nearest hospital.

Gillies added that she doesn’t want to have to watch her loved ones die while waiting on an ambulance to arrive.

Warren Kaeding, minister responsible of rural and remote health, said they are trying to find solutions to help alleviate those pressures.

“One of the things we are doing with our EMS services is going towards a perform-based contract,” explained Kaeding.

“We’re just trying to get some of those details out in determining in certain areas that are underserved or have low populations on how we can best provide that service in those areas.”

Kaeding asked residents to continue to have patience on that matter as the government works to get full details on those opportunities.

Policing and rural crime was a topic brought up by delegates at the convention, too.

Eric Schmalz, reeve of the RM of Prince Albert, wants to see more officers in rural areas and gravel roads around the province. He wanted to know if the government can look into increasing RCMP staffing in rural Saskatchewan.

Corrections and Policing Minister Christine Tell said they need to provide more action on that front, but she doesn’t want to undervalue what’s happening on main highways, either.

“Between human trafficking, drugs and any other type of crime is often found travelling on our main highways.”

But Tell acknowledged she understands it’s important to have police present off main trails and that the government is working to get to that point.

The 2020 SARM Convention wraps up on Thursday.

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