REGINA — Unions representing health-care workers say there are concerns about how consolidating Saskatchewan’s 12 health regions into one provincial health authority will affect patients.
Gordon Campbell, president of the CUPE Health Care Council, says one worry is that a central superboard will be less responsive and harder to navigate for patients and communities.
While Barbara Cape, president of SEIU-West, says the move has the potential to negatively affect both patient care and the provision of health-care services.
She says the announcement came with few details to assure the public of continued access to quality health services across the province and in all communities.
The Saskatchewan government announced the consolidation Wednesday with Health Minister Jim Reiter saying the move is about better and more effective ways to deliver health care.
Campbell says it is also questionable that any cost savings will result.
“Reorganization will cause significant disruption to the whole health system and distract from the main purpose of the health-care system: providing quality care to patients and residents,” Campbell said in a news release.
Cape also says “labour relations issues have been minimized, at best, or at worst, simply ignored.”
CUPE represents more than 13,000 workers in acute care, long-term care, home care, rehabilitation, and public and community services as emergency medical responders, continuing care assistants, licensed practical nurses, dietary staff, medical technologists and technicians, housekeeping and laundry aides, security, clerical and maintenance staff, therapeutic and recreation workers.
SEIU-West represents more than 13,000 workers in health care, education, municipalities, community-based organizations, retirement homes and other sectors.
Reiter said the move will reduce administration and duplication in services such as legal, IT or accounting, but he said the number of jobs impacted will be determined by a transition team.
The government said early estimates indicate savings of between $10 million and $20 million by 2018-19.
The province is trying to save money because a big drop in natural resource revenue has pushed the government’s deficit for this year close to $1 billion.
But Reiter says better service, not cost savings is the primary driver of the change.
The one provincial health authority is to be created this fall.