Sask. Party quietly backs away from ER wait times commitment

The Sask. Party has promised repeatedly since 2012 that emergency room wait times would be gone by 2017 – but made no progress on that promise, and has now backed away from the pledge. 

The promise to eliminate ER wait times by 2017 was made in dozens of documents, media releases and interviews. The decision to back away from that goal was just a few lines in the Health Ministry’s annual report.

“There's no question that it was an ambitious commitment, and I don't think most Saskatchewan people would fault the government for falling a bit short of achieving it if we actually saw significant progress toward reducing ER wait times. The problem is that we haven't seen progress. People are waiting far too long in our province's emergency rooms,” said NDP Leader Cam Broten, who raised this issue in the legislature on Tuesday. 

Saskatchewan has stopped reporting its province-wide ER wait times to the Canadian Institute of Health Information. When it last did, Saskatchewan’s wait times had doubled over just three years, hitting an average wait of about 3.5 hours before seeing a doctor in 2013, up from about 1.7 hours in 2010. Current numbers for Regina and Saskatoon’s health authorities show wait times still at about the 3.5-hour mark on average, with waits to see a physician at the Regina General Hospital now 4.4 hours, on average. 

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No explanation for billion-dollar bypass boondoggle

Corporation from France to get millions to plow a few kilometres for the next 30 years

In a technical briefing regarding the Regina bypass, the Sask. Party couldn’t or wouldn’t explain how the price of the Regina Bypass has ballooned by over $1 billion.

The Regina Bypass has gone from $800 million, to $2 billion – not including the price of land – because the government is using a P3 rent-a-road scheme.

A corporation from France will build the bypass, and collect millions every year for the next 30 years in order to “operate” a section of highway, which includes having the corporation from France come in and plow the road.

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People’s agenda to control session: NDP

Four NDP bills on the table already; session to start Tuesday

The NDP has a strong agenda of legislation it wants passed, and problems it wants fixed during the fall session of the Legislative Assembly – a plan built by listening to growing concerns among Saskatchewan families.

“The Sask. Party keeps dismissing concerns like overcrowded, under-resourced classrooms, long waits for specialists and the ongoing crisis in seniors care. They're handing huge government contracts to out-of-province and out-of-country companies instead of supporting Saskatchewan businesses which create good, mortgage-paying jobs. It's no wonder why more and more people are saying that the Sask. Party seems to be growing increasingly out of touch,” said NDP house leader Warren McCall.

“Mr. Wall’s plan to coast to the provincial election without any improvements in hospitals, classrooms or seniors care homes – that’s not on, if you ask everyday families. And his plan to keep favouring foreign corporations instead of Saskatchewan businesses – that's not on either. This government left their agenda for the fall session pretty blank, and we intend to fill it with things that really matter to Saskatchewan families.”

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5,800 full-time jobs lost, Sask. Party on a contracting-out spree

Statistics Canada says Saskatchewan shed 5,800 full-time jobs during the past year, throughout which the Sask. Party chose to send massive contracts to foreign corporations instead of hiring locally.

The full-time job losses were somewhat offset by the addition of part-time jobs.

“Instead of adding good, mortgage-paying careers here in Saskatchewan, we're seeing a trend toward precarious part-time employment,” said NDP deputy leader Trent Wotherspoon. “We need to stop all the contracting out this government is doing, because that's a big part of that problem.”

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Health minister denies life-saving treatment for kids using wrong information

The Sask. Party government denied three children the only treatment that could stop the progression of their painful disease, and now it’s clear it used completely false information to justify that decision.

Sask. Party Health Minister Dustin Duncan denied the Akhter children, aged 8, 10 and 12, their only hope to stop the disease. In explaining his decision, Duncan claimed the drug Vimizim hasn’t been proven effective in treating children older than five. However, Duncan had it completely wrong – the drug is intended for patients over five years old. It’s only patients under five for which Vimizim has not yet been fully tested.

On Monday, Duncan spoke at length about saying no to the life-saving treatment because the kids are older than five. To reporters, he said: “the common drug review process had indicated that there just isn’t enough evidence to prove that the efficacy of this drug, and there doesn’t seem to be, especially when you get over the age of five in this case, that, the longer that it takes for this drug to be administered, the disease progresses to a point where it just becomes a question of whether or not there is efficacy to administering this drug.” He also said: “the outside expert out of our province that did recommend that because these children are over the age of five, it just, there isn’t the evidence that suggests that there would be efficacy involved in providing this drug.”

“The health minister's whole spiel was made up and dead wrong,” said Danielle Chartier, NDP Health critic. “It's bad enough to deny life-saving treatment to kids, but basing that decision on blatantly wrong information is being reckless with three children’s lives. This government needs to get its facts right, and allow these kids to start treatment immediately.”

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