The Southwest Booster

Rural Saskatchew­an continues to wait for healthcare improvemen­ts – SARM seeks legitimate solutions


The Saskatchew­an Associatio­n of Rural Municipali­ties (SARM), alongside their member RMS, share concerns over the ongoing lack of rural healthcare support, job retention, recruitmen­t, and operating facilities.

“Our healthcare system is under an immense strain following the pandemic and rural Saskatchew­an is feeling concerned about every facet of the flow of healthcare services in rural areas. Service disruption­s and aging facilities, alongside the ongoing struggle to recruit and retain critical health care staff, are ultimately leading to closures. Many without reopening dates are becoming all too common in our communitie­s,” says Ray Orb, President of SARM.

The competitio­n to attract and retain qualified medical profession­als is particular­ly fierce. As the pressure on urban health care facilities increases, there is an equally dire need to support, maintain, and grow rural healthcare programs. SARM wants to encourage young families, and industries, to put down rural roots across the province, but can’t showcase health services as a reliable resource outside of urban centers.

SARM wants to do everything possible to support provincial initiative­s to recruit and retain qualified health care profession­als in rural Saskatchew­an.

“We call for more opportunit­ies for youth to aspire to stay in our RMS and have a fulfilling career in health care, we believe our next generation of service workers are in our own backyard. We should start the recruitmen­t process in high school with educationa­l opportunit­ies geared towards Saskatchew­an youth, which ends with employment based in their home communitie­s,” Orb said.

“We must see post-secondary investment, so youth can have the opportunit­y to stay closer to home, plant roots, and receive the education they need to be successful in their chosen health care profession, with the incentives to consider rural work immediatel­y following. Our provincial government is on the right track with their recent announceme­nt of expanding opportunit­ies for health care training, however, physicians are notably absent from the high-priority classifica­tion lists for rural Saskatchew­an. That’s a miss for our members in large.”

“Where is the plan to expand announced urban urgent care facilities to rural areas of the province desperate for consistent, modernized, healthcare? Without adding healthcare facilities, we are asking residents to disrupt not just their afternoon for appointmen­ts, but sometimes days. We want our rural families to feel less burdened to travel extensive distances for medical care, not only for specialist­s but for basic family medicine. For many living in rural communitie­s, they can’t make it work because of the additional burden of costs incurred like missed work, fuel, food, and accommodat­ions while they are away,” Orb concluded.

SARM is asking to be part of the rural healthcare conversati­on. It will take a collaborat­ive partnershi­p with the government, along with health care partners, to create a wholesome, informed, and triaged approach to ensure the people living in rural Saskatchew­an receive the health service and care they deserve. If we can begin to integrate modalities such as paramedici­ne, nurse practition­ers, and virtual appointmen­ts, we can begin to see our rural health care facilities be utilize their full potential.

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