PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE: Transformational Change and One Mega Health Region

On January 4, 2017, our provincial government announced the results of the transformational change advisory panel for health care, and it’s monumental.

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The panel was given a mandate to reduce the number of health regions, from our current 12. And that is what they delivered: their recommendation is to reduce the health regions to one province-wide health authority. Further to that, under a provincial health authority, there will be 4-6 regional ‘service integration areas’. We do not have any clear understanding of what this means nor have we received any answers to our questions from the Ministry of Health at this point.

A second recommendation is to consolidate clinical services such as Lab/Diagnostic, Information Technology (IT), as well as non clinical services such as Payroll/Finance, Human Resources/Labour Relations and Supply Chain. The report recommended the governance structures of E-Health, SAHO, 3sHealth and the Saskatchewan Cancer Agency be reviewed, to ensure they meet the goals of the Provincial Region, but suggested a review timeframe of a couple of years. However, it strikes me that if there is a desire on the part of government to save money within the health care system, then those are the very bureaucracies that should be a part of a review right now.

The third and fourth recommendations are to measure quality indicators and performance management of the health system via the Health Quality Council (HQC); and review current legislation to establish the new provincial health authority and board of directors.

There are so many questions that our members have already begun asking… and we have put many of these same questions to the Ministry of Health such as:

Our Question

Ministry of Health’s Answer

How much money will this save? Did the government do a cost-benefit analysis?

Nothing they will share, but this process isn’t about saving money, it’s focused on improving patient care

What is a ‘service integration area’?

No clear answer provided, but it’s not a “mini region”

What is the impact on our members’ positions and functions?

No clear answer provided, leave that up to the “experts”

Does the government already have draft legislation prepared?

No clear answer provided, nothing they will share

Has the government given directions to the health regions about how to communicate this announcement to their workers?

Health Regions are to communicate this announcement individually, using a ministry standard script

What will this mean for labour relations and union representation?

Good question, don’t know, too soon to say

How will this affect the upcoming round of health sector bargaining?

Good question, don’t know, too soon to say

As you can see, we do not have any solid answers from the Ministry of Health that would help our members plan for the impact of this change.

This is such a true shift in how health care is delivered, that I don’t think even our government or RHA’s really know what this will look like.

As we all know, there are hundreds of moving parts in our health system. It’s not just one department or service or facility or health region that keeps health care in the province moving forward… it’s each and every person who contributes to the patient, client or resident’s health and well-being.

So after reading through the recommendations and receiving a debrief from the Ministry of Health, do we have confidence in this direction? Sadly, no. Do I think a quality structure and transition plan that adequately addresses the legislative, legal, financial and labour relations impacts will be ready to roll out by fall of 2017? I really don’t know how it will be possible.

If the government is truly dedicated to improved patient care, I’m not sure how this timeline will allow proper consultation with those who provide hands on health care services. This timeline seems unrealistic.

I think this decision is shortsighted because it lacks the solid recognition of the changes that our provincial health system has been through since 1997. Saskatchewan is ahead of the rest of the country when it comes to establishing community health care service delivery in a regionalized model where a local voice remains relevant. The one province-wide health authority plan does not contemplate a clear recognition or role for our rural and remote communities. The lack of those voices will most definitely cause a negative impact in their health care service delivery.

We all know that there is a desire for change by government to address their budget shortfall, therefore we are wary of cuts to service through this process.

After a week where our Premier is ‘musing’ about layoffs and rollbacks and ask us for good faith and goodwill – this report doesn’t provide the basis for trust building or for assurance of clear answers or transparency in the grand plan for health care in the province of Saskatchewan.

We are demanding more answers to many of the same questions you have shared with us. But we want to make sure that your questions are addressed by the Ministry of Health. Do not hesitate to contact the Member Resource Center (MRC) at 1-888-999-7348 ext. 2298 or through the contact us form or email me directly at barb.cape@seiuwest.ca.

Related Links:

Transformational Change Page -What We Know

SEIU-West Media Release – One Health Region To Rule Them All

Saskatchewan Advisory Panel on Health System Structure Report

 

 

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