OXBOW - Concerned citizens of Oxbow and area held a town meeting Tuesday night at Oxbow’s Memorial Hall regarding the temporary disruptions to the Galloway Health Centre’s emergency services.
The timing of the meeting was appropriate, as service was twice disrupted during the Family Day long weekend, and numerous other disruptions have occurred this year.
A total of 250 concerned residents from Oxbow, Alameda and the surrounding area attended the two-hour long meeting. Dana Krienke was the moderator. Cannington MLA Daryl Harrison and Souris-Moose Mountain MP Robert Kitchen were present.
Also on a panel were Galloway Health Centre manager Caroline Hill, Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) director of primary health care for district SE9 Candace Kopec, and SHA director of acute care Colleen Easton.
Mayors, reeves, various councilors and community leaders also attended.
Oxbow and area concerned citizen Tamara Brock had pre-positioned the panel with a few questions:
•What is the difference between a health centre and a hospital?
•How does this affect nursing staff and funding?
•Local hospitals have been offering $50,000 signing bonuses. Has the Galloway Health Centre applied to the SHA rural and remote signing team for this additional funding bonus?
Easton replied: “Health centre is just a term used 30 years ago and the name does not affect nursing staff and funding.”
Regarding a health signing bonus, Kopec said: “Unfortunately, the Galloway Health Centre does not appear as a designated bonus centre.”
They were also asked whether there is a full complement of staff at the Galloway Health Centre, including registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, environmental service workers, care aids and any other positions required to keep the facility in use. As part of the question, they were asked about the staffing requirements per shift.
Both Kopec and Easton reiterated that the Galloway Health Centre is an important part of southeast Saskatchewan health care. Nobody wants to see emergency services disrupted and those at the meeting were pleased to learn that 2.5 full-time nursing positions have been filled in the past week. As well, a request for additional staffing for the health centre has been submitted.
Regarding out-of-country recruitment, once a foreign employee comes to Saskatchewan, people wanted to know about the additional training and the timeframe required before starting.
Replied Easton, “That question is difficult to answer. It depends on what country the person comes from and what their staff designation is. They need to meet the licensing requirements of what is needed by the provincial government.”
Apparently, the time frame for this additional training is approximately three months.
Another questions was on the process to ensure concerns as individuals and community members are acknowledged, and if the concerns are checked regularly and thoroughly.
Easton provided the following response. “The proper website is www.saskhealthauthority.ca. That link has additional contact information available for various departments.”
The moderator then offered the microphone to those in attendance. Over 20 asked questions and expressed their concerns.
The hospital naming status was brought up time after time. The panel continued to remind the audience that the only difference between a hospital and health centre is the number of multi-purpose beds or acute care beds that it has. It does not affect the nursing complement needed or costs.
It was learned that Oxbow had nearly three times the number of emergency patient calls when compared to Redvers the past two years. Again, the panel advised it was obvious that the Galloway emergency centre is a well-used and much needed facility.
Various other matters were discussed including the reopening of the palliative care room, having EMTs helping with any overloads, and whether the Galloway Health Centre should be operated as an acute care centre and a hospital.
On a positive note, it was frequently mentioned that the Galloway Health Centre has been able to retain three experienced doctors who provide high quality care and coverage for the area.
The meeting ended shortly after 9 p.m. Harrison appreciated the invitation to attend and offered some encouraging thoughts.
“It was a great crowd tonight with some good questions. All the RN positions are currently filled in Oxbow. The Government of Saskatchewan continues with our four-point Health Human Resources Action Plan to recruit, train, incentivize and retain healthcare workers.
“In September 2022, 150 new nurse training seats were added, including 10 more additional nurse practitioner seats, 124 RN seats and 16 psychiatric seats.
“In January of 2023, more than 550 seats were added to 18 post-secondary programs for priority health professions that are in demand or hard to recruit.”
Ian Cushon is a concerned citizen and organic grain farmer who also attended the meeting.
“I was impressed with the large turnout and well-organized town hall on such short notice. It was very important to hear from the SHA on staffing issues and disruptions to service at the Galloway Health Centre. There was some good news, that the vacant nursing positions have been recently filled and ER service disruptions will be less likely,” said Cushon.
“Health care issues and disruptions impact all our communities and shortages of nurses and doctors are a growing problem across Canada, but especially in rural areas.
“As soon as possible the province must create many more health care training spaces for Saskatchewan residents and encourage them to practice and work in rural Saskatchewan.
“The province also needs to reduce the barriers to qualified nurses and doctors trained from other provinces and countries, so that they can work in Saskatchewan sooner than later.”
Sandy Dalziel is another concerned citizen who was also pleased with the large number in attendance.
“It was refreshing to see some of our questions answered but we still require clarification from the SHA on several matters,” said Dalziel. “I also wish to commend Tamara and Tara Brock, along with others, for putting this event together on such short notice. Their efforts are truly appreciated.”
As a result of this meeting, the Oxbow and area concerned citizens committee is in the process of compiling questions that will be submitted to the SHA and still require answers. They are hopeful that an early response is provided with results to be shared to the region.