Visiting MLAs hear health challenges at public forum

A group of Saskatchewan MLAs will head back to Regina with some stories about northern health care challenges.

Saskatchewan NDP MLAs Danielle Chartier, Vicki Mowat and Doyle Vermette visited Creighton July 25 as part of an ongoing series of health checkups around the province, hearing concerns relating to provincial health care.

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“Our goal is to interact with folks inmany different communities,”said Mowat, who serves as the party’s deputy house leader and critic for health and status of women.

“We’re hearing a lot of common themes about concerns about having access to health care, and make sure making sure that health care is there when you need it, the care that you need is provided to you.”

Obstetrics advocate Kristen Fritsch spoke to the officials about last year’s suspension of birthing services in Flin Flon, relaying her experiences of giving birth in The Pas instead of Flin Flon and difficulties with accommodation in the community.

“I’ve been here since 2013. I love this community. My husband was born and raised here and his family is here and I would love to stay and have our family here, but when I think about the eight-hour drive to Winnipeg to fix my son’s tongue tie at five weeks old…what future do we have in this community if the health care isn’t there for us?”she said.

“We’ve had an opportunity to collaborate in calling on the government to improve access to obstetrical care in Flin Flon, because we know that that really impacts Saskatchewan residents as well. Being told to wait a few hours before you have your baby while you’re on route to the hospital, whether you’re going to The Pas or you’re going to Prince Albert, or realistically, sit for a couple of weeks before you have your baby waiting for the birth to come when you’re not in your community, these are just not tenable options that are being presented. We’ve been calling on the government to work with the Manitoba government and really work to prioritize recruiting so that we can improve access,”said Mowat.

One issue brought forward by some members of the audience at the meeting was having medical records transferred between medical facilities in different provinces –a key issue in a border-based community.

“When your loved one is getting on a plane in an emergency, you shouldn’t have to think, ‘I don’t know where I’m going to stay when I get there and I don’t know how I’m going to get home,”said Denare Beach resident Donna Champagne, her voice choked up, speaking about medical-related travel.

“Should an individual be fortunate enough to get to their medical appointments, in many cases, their medical records are not available when they get there. The cost and inconvenience of travel for medical purposes may have to be repeated in the future because the health service provider says, ‘I’m sorry, I can’t help you. I don’t have your records.’”

“We have had those complaints brought forward. Having said that, I wanted my colleagues and the critics to hear this stuff, so they can work and have their office work directly with people who are having issues and try to find solutions. I understand that people are frustrated, so here’s a good opportunity –you’re giving the critics a chance to be able to call this government and the ministry,”said Vermette.

Not every subject mentioned was negative. Moira Davis said a drug she takes for a medical condition is viable to acquire through insurance.

“The drug is $20,000 a year. Because of my husband’s employer and the fact I live in Saskatchewan, I don’t pay a dime for it,”she said, also commenting positively on Creighton’s home care and palliative care systems.

“Those are the good things about our system. Now, the bad things about our system. We’re remote,”Davis said regarding telehealth in Saskatchewan.

“Under the guise of health care, all the doctors have to pay a $1700 dollar a year fee to use telehealth, which I think is horses***. I can FaceTime [my doctor] from Mexico, but yet I can’t talk to him,”she said. “I don’t know how you’re going to fix it. Telehealth should be free [for doctors].”

Transport for medical travel has also proven to be an issue, said Vermette, the MLA  representing Creighton, especially since the shutdown of the Saskatchewan Transportation Company (STC) in 2017.

“STC is gone, that’s a challenge. We’re hearing from seniors and many people struggling with making sure that they have access. I wanted my colleagues to hear that, so come October, we can call on government and put the pressure on the government, that they can reach out to Manitoba make sure that we don’t have to reinvent the wheel.”

The MLAs did not answer some of the questions posed, but Chartier was seen taking notes during the meeting to be passed on within the party or government.

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