ER waits: broken promise, now progress delayed for years

With health care jobs being cut and emergency room (ER) waits brutally long, the Sask. Party is now watering down ER wait-time targets, and punting them years down the road.

The Sask. Party government made no progress on meeting Brad Wall's promise of a 50 per cent reduction in ER waits by March 2015 and the complete elimination of ER waits by 2017.

Now, they’ll only try for 60 per cent reduction in waits by 2019.

“Right now, Saskatchewan’s ER wait times are terrible, if not dangerous. Pushing back any goal to reduce those waits – pushing it back by years – is absolutely not good enough,” said NDP Health critic Danielle Chartier. “We wait hours in ERs – we shouldn’t have to wait years for any real improvements to that.

“I continue to hear horrible, devastating stories about what ER wait times are doing to patients. I’ve heard from a pregnant and vomiting woman who waited hours. I’ve heard from patients in Moose Jaw that waited in public bathrooms because the ER waiting room was overcrowded. And, sadly, we’ve all read the devastating story of Michael Line, who waited hours before dying in a waiting room in Swift Current.

“There is a massive mountain of waste in health care – keeping that waste while cutting front-line staff is an unbelievably misplaced priority. We can afford to set ambitious ER wait elimination goals and meet them – but the Sask. Party is choosing waste like Lean instead.”

Because of brutal wait times, 18,000 patients who went to an ER in Saskatchewan last year left before a doctor could get to them.

Yet the Sask. Party is eliminating 150 health care positions in Regina, and Saskatoon is now bracing for health care layoffs that will start this month. Several programs that aim to keep people healthy, and out of emergency rooms also had their funding chopped this week in a short-sighted effort to save money.

“The Sask. Party spends tens of millions of dollars every year on the John Black Lean program. They’re spending as much as 46 per cent more per health region on executive pay for their bloated management structure. But they’re cutting the front lines.”

Chartier said cutting the size and cost of the senior executive ranks in health care, and eliminating the hundreds of Lean promotion employees in health care would make more resources available for the front lines. She added that home care is stretched thin and has suffered Sask. Party cuts; seniors care homes are under-resourced and the Sask. Party is still failing to put a working mental health strategy in place – all problems that put additional pressure on emergency rooms.