New health authority officially launches

Full transition could take years


A new era has officially be­gun for Saskatchewan’s health care sys­tem.

On Mon­day, the prov­ince’s new sin­gle health authority, the Saskatchewan Health Authority, officially be­gan oper­a­tions. Speak­ing to me­dia as­sem­bled in Saskatoon, where the head­quar­ters for the new or­ga­ni­za­tion will be based, the authority’s CEO Scott Liv­ing­stone said the day was a turning point.

“Today marks an im­por­tant mile­stone for health care in Saskatchewan.

Today, the 12 re­gional health au­thor­i­ties officially join to­gether, to start our shared jour­ney to­wards a re­fine­ment of Saskatchewan health care,” he said.

Liv­ing­stone said that bring­ing the whole prov­ince un­der one authority will al­low for more to be done in terms of im­prov­ing health care, specif­i­cally ac­cess and qual­ity. The CEO stressed that while the an­nounce­ment today is an im­por­tant one, there is still much ground to be cov­ered and that the process will not be a short one. He said a num­ber of groups will be con­sulted dur­ing this process, rang­ing from pa­tients, to pro­fes­sion­als, to In­dige­nous com­mu­ni­ties.

“Today is truly the be­gin­ning, it is truly day one, and we’ve just started this multi-year jour­ney,” he said.

Ac­cord­ing to Liv­ing­stone, peo­ple who walk into a hos­pi­tal today will not no­tice any ma­jor dif­fer­ences, ex­cept maybe peo­ple an­swer­ing the phone with a dif­fer­ent greet­ing. The CEO stressed that this is made pos­si­ble by the fact much of the old in­fra­struc­ture from the pre­vi­ous health re­gions is still in place.

“The phone num­ber a pa­tient phones yes­ter­day to ac­cess care and the health care sys­tem, the web­sites … all the ex­ist­ing web­sites where pa­tients go to ac­cess in­for­ma­tion … those are still in­tact,” he said.

He said one of the main goals dur­ing the transition process was to makes sure that pa­tients and front­line staff were not dis­rupted. Go­ing for­ward, they will be­gin a dif­fer­ent kind of work.

“There’s a dif­fer­ence be­tween transition and trans­for­ma­tion, and the trans­for­ma­tion work is about to be­gin,” he said.

A ma­jor part of that work will in­volve fill­ing a few va­cant ex­ec­u­tive po­si­tions, and also hir­ing out-of-scope man­agers and di­rec­tors to over­see cer­tain sys­tem ar­eas. The hir­ing process will take sev­eral months to com­plete, and many of the po­si­tions could be filled by peo­ple who are cur­rently in se­nior po­si­tions at the prov­ince’s health re­gions. The new authority has al­ready spent over $4 mil­lion to pay out for­mer CEOs and other high-level ex­ec­u­tives who will not be part of the new ad­min­is­tra­tion. Liv­ing­stone said he could not pro­vide a con­crete time when the new struc­ture would be fully in place.

“I think it’s go­ing to take mul­ti­ple years … if we look at our ex­pe­ri­ence in other juris­dic­tions like Al­berta and Nova Sco­tia, where they’ve al­ready moved to a sin­gle health authority, they’re not done their work,” he said.

When pressed for a firmer timeline, Liv­ing­stone said that Saskatchewan would likely be look­ing at a min­i­mum of three years be­fore the new ad­min­is­tra­tive struc­tures are fully in place. Peo­ple will also not be see­ing any changes in terms of the clos­ing of lower vol­ume health care fa­cil­i­ties in smaller ar­eas.

“There are not short term plans to be clos­ing those fa­cil­i­ties,” he said.

How­ever, Liv­ing­stone did not rule out the pos­si­bil­ity that fa­cil­i­ties could be in­te­grated go­ing into the fu­ture. He also spoke to fears about lo­cal voices pos­si­bly be­ing lost in the shuf­fle. To com­bat this, the authority plans to cre­ate six ad­min­is­tra­tive teams that will be lo­cated across the prov­ince to make sure that not all de­ci­sions have to come out of Saskatoon. He stressed that th­ese ad­min­is­tra­tive units are not akin to the for­mer health re­gions.

“Th­ese are not re­gional health au­thor­i­ties, they don’t have their own bud­gets,” he said.

Along with this, there are plans to cre­ate com­mu­nity ad­vi­sory bod­ies to make sure ser­vices are de­signed with lo­cals in mind. In terms of solv­ing the prob­lems of short­ages of cer­tain pro­fes­sion­als in the sys­tem, the authority will look to work more on re­cruit­ment. Liv­ing­stone said the new authority will also be set up to bet­ter deal with short­term short­ages.

“We’ll have the abil­ity to draw on a pro­vin­cial pool for locums,” he said.

Liv­ing­stone said one of the goals they are hop­ing to ac­com­plish is keep­ing the over­all de­ci­sion mak­ing as close to the pa­tient as pos­si­ble, but also mak­ing sure to keep true to the vi­sion of hav­ing a pro­vin­cial sys­tem, which they are still try­ing to nav­i­gate.

“We haven’t landed ex­actly where that de­ci­sion mak­ing thresh­old will be,” he said.

The phone num­ber a pa­tient phones yes­ter­day to ac­cess care and the health care sys­tem, the web­sites… all the ex­ist­ing web­sites ... Scott Liv­ing­stone, CEO of new Saskatchewan Health Authority

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