Work is underway to consolidate the 12 existing Regional Health Authorities (RHAs) to a single Provincial Health Authority, anticipated to occur in fall 2017.

Last week, the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) expressed concern that these changes are primarily motivated by fiscal reasons and will lower the standard of care for all citizens of Saskatchewan.

“Indigenous peoples in Saskatchewan have been taking a greater role in the design and delivery of health services in the province. Our Treaty Right to Health continues to be eroded. We’re ready to move forward with our own culturally relevant health system for our people.” said FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron.  “The All Nations Healing Hospital in Fort Qu’Appelle has successfully delivered health services to the people of Fort Qu’Appelle and the surrounding area for over 12 years. The Northern Inter-Tribal Health Authority has provided third level services for Indigenous communities in the north for almost 20 years.”

“The provincial health system has overwhelmingly failed our people and now, eight years after promising to close the gaps in health for Indigenous peoples, it appears they may do so by lowering the standard of care for everyone else,” said Vice Chief Merasty. “This is not what we intended when we signed the MOU on Health with the provincial and federal governments.”

The Government of Saskatchewan, Government of Canada and FSIN entered into a Memorandum of Understanding on Health in 2008 to close the gaps in health programs, services and ultimately, health status similar to the objectives of an MOU signed in British Columbia in 2005. However, the Government of Saskatchewan has invested comparatively very little into the implementation of the work plan produced through the MOU despite responsibility for many key transformations.

“We need a health system that provides the best quality of care to all people in this province including Indigenous peoples,” said Vice Chief Merasty. “This requires a major transformation of the health system and it will not be achieved through administrative changes alone. It is time Indigenous peoples take the lead and develop a system for our people, by our people.”

“While cost savings will be the product of improved co-ordination and integration of health care services, it is not the primary objective.  The move to a single Provincial Health Authority is being driven by our government’s continued commitment to improving front-line patient care for people across the province,” Health Minister Jim Reiter said in a press release today.

“As work begins on the transition, our goal is to ensure implementation occurs seamlessly and that the needs of patients are always our top priority,” Reiter added.  “This is a significant change and there is a lot of work to be done.”

A transition team is being assembled that will include Ministry of Health, clinical and health system leaders.  The team is tasked with developing a comprehensive plan to implement the new Provincial Health Authority.  Along with a new governance and management structure, the team will be considering the consolidation of health system administration and clinical support services, and the potential savings associated with consolidation. The potential savings associated with consolidation are currently estimated in the range of $10-20 million by 2018-19.

The Ministry of Health cited examples of potential savings from moving from 12 RHA boards to one will save about $700,000 a year in board governance costs, and that consolidating Information Technology will save about $9 million per year. A reduction in salary expenses for senior executive level positions across RHAs is also anticipated.

“We are in the beginning stages of the transition process, so the potential cost savings range is a very early estimate,” Reiter said.  “There will be costs associated with implementation in the first year, including some severance, with savings anticipated to begin in 2018.”

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