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'Half-baked': Sask. NDP slams plan to send some hip, knee replacements out-of-province

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Official Opposition Leader Carla Beck and NDP health critic Vicki Mowat called Thursday for the province to scrap its proposed private surgery plan.

"If Scott Moe would listen to the experts or even his head of surgery, he’d know that creating a private surgical clinic relying on the already scarce workforce simply won’t work,” Beck said in a news release.

“Scott Moe already had to send Saskatchewan patients out of province in the height of the pandemic for care. What’s remarkable is he’s now actually planning to do the same with this latest half-baked plan. We don’t need to rely on other provinces’ health systems to care for our own, we need to fix our public health system here at home.”

On Monday, the Sask Party government announced it had set a target to perform 7,000 more surgeries in 2022-23 than the highest-ever level, to reduce the surgical backlog.

To help meet those targets, the Saskatchewan Health Authority is exploring expansion with private sector partners. It will issue a request for proposals to build an orthopedic surgery facility focused on increasing operating room and bed capacity for in-patient joint replacements and a variety of day surgery procedures, according to a news release.

The government is also exploring a temporary, out-of-province surgical initiative for hip and knee replacements, in which the health authority would contract a private surgical facility to perform publicly funded orthopedic surgeries. It would be offered to patients on a voluntary basis, who have waited for the longest for their joint replacement procedures.

The Sask. NDP is also calling on the province to expand operating and diagnostic hours and incentivize and fund more full-time scarce positions including diagnostics, anesthesiologists and operating room nurses to help manage the surgical backlog.

Merriman said in a statement to CTV News that privately delivered surgeries have been an important part of Saskatchewan’s publicly funded surgical system for more than a decade. Since 2010-11 private clinics have delivered more than 128,000 publicly funded surgeries, he said.

"The NDP’s proposal would deny near-term relief to long-waiting surgical patients to satisfy their ideological opposition to the private delivery of publicly funded health services. Our government is taking an all of the above approach to addressing surgical wait times."

He said the province is working to expand private and public capacity in Saskatchewan over the medium and long term by recruiting more staff for the public system and procuring additional private capacity to provide low-risk elective procedures that do not require hospital stays.

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