Saskatchewan will no longer be made up of 12 Regional Health Authorities (RHA), instead there will be one Provincial Health Authority.
Announced Jan. 4, Health Minister Jim Reiter accepted the recommendations of the Saskatchewan Advisory Panel on Health System Structure, which was created in August.
The panel was made up of three members from different regions who were tasked with recommending a structure with fewer regional health authorities.
“One Provincial Health Authority that is focused on better coordination of health services across the province will improve the quality of care patients receive,” said Reiter.
The move is believed to reduce administration costs for the province.
Along with the move to one health authority, the Advisory Panel also recommended a single board of directors be appointed to govern the new authority.
“Our goal is better coordination between the health services provided in different areas of the province,” Reiter said.
The report delivered by the Advisory Panel also suggests the consolidation of health system administrative support functions and some clinical services, such as laboratory and diagnostic imaging, as well as the planning, dispatch and delivery of Emergency Medical Services (EMS).
Panel member Dr. Dennis Kendel from Saskatoon recognizes the changes suggested by the panel are “significant”.
“The Advisory Panel encourages the provincial government and senior leaders within the health system to take the time required to ensure a smooth transition,” Dr. Kendel said.
CUPE president of Health Care Council Gordon Campbell is concerned with how the change to one province-wide “superboard” will affect workers, patients and quality of care.
The “announcement creates more uncertainty for frontline workers and for rural communities across Saskatchewan,” Campbell said.
Campbell fears the new board for the entire province will be less responsive and harder to navigate for both patients and communities in the province.
Campbell also questioned whether the new amalgamated system will make communities already experiencing difficulties have problems accessing health care.
“Will this lead to reduced services and a loss of decision making in communities, especially in rural communities?” asked Campbell.
Health Minister Reiter said the new Provincial Health Authority will still give optimal health services to every part of the province.
“This change represents a consolidation of administration, not a centralization of services. Our government remains committed to providing high-quality services in every part of the province,” said Reiter.
The change over to a province-wide system is likely to occur in fall, 2017.
Work on implementation planning had already begun at the Ministry of Health.
A plan is being created that works through “critical implementation details, legislation, governance, financial and change management.
“We want to do this quickly, but it is important to do this right,” said Reiter.