by Derek Cornet

A new provincial health body will be created to replace Saskatchewan’s 12 existing regional health authorities.

The announcement occurred Jan. 4 and, according to a government press release, the new provincial health authority is anticipated to come into being in the fall. The change is just one of several set to take place after government officials decided to accept all of the recommendations of the Saskatchewan Advisory Panel on Health System Structure.

“One provincial health authority that is focused on better co-ordination of health services across the province will improve the quality of care patients receive,” health minister Jim Reiter stated. “It will also reduce administration and duplication.”

Recommendations also include the appointment of a single board of directors to govern the new authority, system-wide improvements that include consolidation of health system administrative support functions, as well as clinical services such as laboratory and diagnostic imaging, planning, dispatch and delivery of emergency medical services (EMS).

“We recognize the changes we are recommending are significant,” advisory panel member Dr. Dennis Kendel said in the release.

The Ministry of Health had already begun work on implementation planning, which involves the development of a comprehensive plan. The plan will include legislation, governance, financial and change management considerations.

“We want to do this quickly, but it’s important to do this right,” Reiter commented. “The priority will be planning for a smooth transition.”

Prairie North Regional Health Authority CEO David Fan said the creation of one regional authority doesn’t surprise him, noting it seems to be a national trend with Alberta, Nova Scotia and P.E.I. already transitioned.

“Now that we know where the system is going, it fills in some of the blanks for us,” Fan remarked. “The uncertainty has been going on for quite a number of months as the advisory panel studied the different options.”

Fan also stated the two priorities for the health region as changes occur are patients and staff. He said patient care will continue to be the focus, while employees will be supported as changes will bring unease.

“It’s fair to say change concerns people as always because it brings uncertainty and job insecurities,” Fan continued. “We need to be mindful and respectful of the job they do, and the value they bring to the health system, and treat them fairly.”