Sask. NDP requests more supports for rural health care

The provincial NDP is calling on the government to provide health care security for Saskatchewan’s rural communities.

A release on Tuesday from the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) showed three of 12 community emergency rooms that were previous closed will stay closed indefinitely. Those hospitals are located in Lanigan, Broadview and Radville.

The nine hospitals the SHA is targeting​ to re-open their emergency departments to previous levels of service are in Kerrobert, Herbert, Preeceville, Davidson, Wolseley, Arcola, Biggar, Leader and Oxbow. The authority hopes the first reopening will be in Arcola in mid-June.

According to the SHA’s release, the closures were a result of converting the 12 community hospitals to Alternate Level of Care (ALC) sites to create capacity for any potential spike in COVID-19 cases.

Vicki Mowat, health critic for the Sask. NDP, agrees the province needs to do what they can to fight COVID-19, but she said this move was too fast and that it was a mistake.

“We know that these concerns of folks in rural Saskatchewan about their health care are not recent concerns and are not unique to COVID-19,” said Mowat on Wednesday. “They have existed for years now.”

The NDP shared on Wednesday that a Freedom of Information (FOI) request indicates years of service disruptions in multiple communities across the province, including the three hospitals that will have to keep their doors closed.

The FOI shows extensive rural hospital closures going back to 2012, which the NDP says is the earliest the data was available, until the summer of 2019 when the FOI was filed.

(Image courtesy of Sask. NDP)

According to the FOI, one of those hospitals, the Preeceville and District Health Centre, went 59 total days without emergency services after it was closed in 2016.

Stacey Strykowski, a town councillor in Preeceville, shared her struggles as a guest on the NDP’s web conference on Wednesday. Strykowski has been a long-time advocate for rural health care access in the province as her son lives with anaphylaxis –  a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction that can occur within seconds or minutes.

She said they have been dealing with the issue of ER closures for four years now. The latest closure is affecting their staffing numbers.

“Over the four years, we were able to secure three doctors and a nurse practitioner here. It was fully staffed here,” explained Strykowski.

“Unfortunately because of the disruption in services and the lack of stability in the ER, we will lose a doctor at the end of August. So this will add to the chaos in our community again trying to secure another doctor.”

Strykowski noted three doctors is the community’s magic number to properly operate their emergency room. Their ER runs from Monday to Friday at 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., and 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. during weekends. Outside of those hours, residents have to travel to Canora, which doesn’t have a 24/7 emergency room either, or to Yorkton.

For the hospitals in Broadview, Lanigan and Radville, the SHA says they require additional time for updates and securing stable staffing levels.

More from 620 CKRM