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Surgeries set a new record in Saskatchewan

Province points to highest volumes ever recorded for surgeries in Saskatchewan with 71,850 for first nine months of fiscal year
Everett Hindley speaks to reporters Aug. 29 at Government House after being sworn in as Saskatchewan’s new Minister of Health.

REGINA - Saskatchewan has recorded the highest volumes ever recorded for numbers of surgeries for the first nine months of the fiscal year.

For the period April 1 to Dec. 31, 71,850 procedures were performed, according to the province’s news release. That amounts to an increase of 6,000 procedures over Dec. 2022. 

The province says it set aggressive targets for surgical volume. They set goals of surpassing  last year's highest volume of over 90,000 procedures, ensuring 90 per cent of surgeries are performed within 10 months, and that no patients are on the waitlist longer than 18 months. The province says they exceeded that 90 per cent target between Oct.1 and Dec. 31.

Health Minister Everett Hindley called it a “very monumental achievement for Saskatchewan’s health care system” in a call with reporters.

"This achievement means that more residents are receiving timely care and overall surgical wait times continue to trend downwards. It goes without saying but it’s very important that I do say it, that I want to thank each and everyone of our surgeons, our anesthesiologists, the nurses, the care teams, for their continuous tireless efforts, for their leadership and their collaboration,” said Hindley. 

"Our government wants to make sure that we continue to support those teams to make sure that they have the tools they need to be able to provide essential health services for patients right across Saskatchewan and we’re going to continue that work. There’s still people waiting on the waiting list and as we work to shorten those waiting lists and get people timely surgeries as quickly as we can, we’re going to continue to do that and do so with our partners here today.”

Hindley was asked about how far along the province was in reducing the surgical backlog and getting back to the prepandemic levels. He said in terms of targets they are trying to hit, they had a waitlist of about 25,000 prepandemic but with the pandemic reached a peak of 36,000 as of Nov. 2021.

He said as of Dec. 31, 2023, the total surgical waitlist was down to 27,400.

“We’re working really really hard, our teams are doing some excellent work to try and get that to a pre-COVID waitlist of 25,000 by March 31 of this year.”

SHA Provincial Surgical Services Executive Director Cindy Graham said they were “slightly behind pace” for reaching that volume but said “we have seen considerable improvements and overall reduction.” She sqid overall number of people waiting for surgery had decreased 15 percent since April 1.

While exact numbers were not available for types of surgeries, Graham said they had been focussing on the longest-waiting patients including for joint surgeries and ear-nose-throat, as well as general surgery.

Hindley was also asked about continued concerns about rural health care, an issue raised at an NDP media event in Saskatoon that day in which leader Carla Beck pointed to more doctors leaving rural Saskatchewan than coming in.

Hindley pointed to establishment of the Sask Health Recruitment Agency as well as the increase in the Rural Physician Incentive Program up to $200,000 over a five-year term of service for physicians in rural Saskatchewan. He also pointed to the recent collective agreement signed with the Saskatchewan Medical Association.

He said they had been working diligently with SMA to work towards a new contract, and a new model of remuneration for physicians. Hindley believed getting that signed will make a difference.

“That’s significant and that going to help not just Regina and Saskatoon, but it’s also going to help some of our rural communities as well I believe, and I think put this in a much better position when it comes to fair, adequate compensation, very competitive compensation, right across this province.”