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Wilkie fights for health care services

Ongoing suspension of services has resulted in a petition started in the community

WILKIE - Longtime Wilkie resident Kathy Heilman has been concerned about the ongoing suspension of the Wilkie and District Health Centre's emergency and outpatient services and decided it's time to try to do something about it.

After talking to others, she wrote a petition, which is now in the Wilkie Reddi Mart, Town of Wilkie office, Wilkie Pharmacy and the Wilkie Medical Clinic. She says she hopes people, not only from Wilkie, but the surrounding areas, villages and towns, will sign the petition. The plans are to present the petition to the Saskatchewan Health Authority and the Government of Saskatchewan, including the premier, the ministers of health and the media.

The most recent update on the Wilkie and District Health Centre from the Saskatchewan Health Authority, as of June 21 states, “Emergency and outpatient services at the facility are suspended until further notice. Laboratory, x-ray, and community services will be available by appointment only. Please call your care provider of Wilkie and District Health Centre at 306-843-2644.”

SHA announced the suspension of services May 7, 2020, stating, “The service changes are in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to fully cohort staff to ensure the health and safety of our patients, residents, employees and physicians, and in accordance with a recent public health order. The layout of the Wilkie and District Health Centre and current staffing levels require us to temporarily consolidate resources to care for our long-term care residents.”

A prior announcement made in 2019 stated, “Due to an ongoing shortage of registered nurses to deliver emergency services at the Wilkie and District Health Centre, the emergency department will operate on reduced hours Mondays through Fridays, beginning Dec. 2, 2019 and continuing until further notice.”

Heilman and others feel this has gone on too long, saying the health centre is one of the best in the area – a state-of-the-art facility with many excellent features people might not know about.

Heilman says for way too long, Wilkie has been like the poor little sister, asking, “Please, sir, I want more,” and in this case more means opening the ER and offering the much-needed medical care to everyone.

“We did have a hospital,” says Heilman, “which was the home for 10 severely and mentally challenged residents, where people of all ages received the best health care possible. It was actually one of the few hospitals that actually was in the black financially when it came to running the hospital, but ... the NDP government of the day decided to close the Wilkie Hospital along with 51 more in the province.”

The community rallied and the Friends of the Wilkie Hospital fought long and hard, went to court, and stopped the closure. Heilman says, “We won the battle but unfortunately lost the war, and we have been fighting ever since to keep the high standard of health care not only for Wilkie residents but for everyone who uses the health centre.”

Following the closure of the hospital, people rallied in town and the building was converted into Bethany Enhanced Living Facility, another important part of the community. There was a committee set up, the Wilkie and District Health Foundation, who are the guardians of the money raised for the hospital. It is a board of volunteers who have worked throughout the years, raising money for equipment that the health authority would not purchase, including the latest purchase, a new digital x-ray machine. They are excellent stewards of the money, says Heilman, and continue to support and help whenever possible.

“That brings us to today,” says Heilman. “Our health centre has beds that people could use to stay in when ill, a beautiful palliative care room for those who are dying and for the families to be with them. It is private and what is needed.”

She adds, “Our helipad is called the ‘Cadillac of helipads’ by STARS officials. And this helipad was the result of another fundraiser by the David Ziegler family as they knew all too well the value of STARS and having a secure and safe helipad for them, and most important, caring and dedicated staff who are more than willing to help those who are sick and hurt.”

Heilman says, “Another important reason to get the ER opened is that presently anyone who has been hurt, is sick and needs medical attention, has to call the ambulance, which may or may not come from Wilkie, and be transported to another ER in another community and often have a long wait time.”

Heilman wonders about those costs, another reason to work toward the opening of the ER at the Wilkie Health Centre.

Heilman says everyone deserves the best health care and that means getting the ER up and running again.

She is encouraging everyone to sign the petition.

“Working together we can make things happen.”


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