NDP calls on government to act on surgical wait times

The NDP is calling on the Sask Party Government to take immediate and meaningful action to address the province’s severe surgical backlog. There are currently more than 28,000 people in Saskatchewan waiting for surgery and the wait list continues to grow. 

“Not only does it affect people’s health by being forced to wait exceedingly long times to get the procedures they need, it also costs the province more money,” said NDP Leader Ryan Meili. “Making people wait in pain and with uncertainty to get the surgery they need costs more, as delayed operations cause more severe and costly complications. We need a health system that puts people first.”

Since the Sask. Party eliminated targeted funding for surgeries in 2015, the number of people waiting for surgeries has more than doubled, with an additional 15,000 people added to the waitlist over the last 5 years. Seventy two percent of those currently waiting have already waited more than 3 months, and 14% more people waiting over 6 months for surgery than there were a decade ago. According to CIHI, Saskatchewan is currently dead last among provinces in providing timely access to hip replacement surgeries. For some critical procedures the wait times are even more severe. Anna Hartman, a Saskatoon resident who has already been waiting a year for double hip replacement, and is among patients in Saskatoon who may have to wait another 18 months or longer before she receives the surgery she needs. 

“I’ve been waiting so long for surgery that it’s causing me even more health problems,” said Hartman. “My quality of life has gone down, my pain has gone up, I can’t sleep more than an hour or two at a time, and now I’ve got new problems in my knee and shoulder because of the strain. The waiting has meant a lot of unnecessary hardship for me but also I’m now facing more surgeries that wouldn’t have been necessary. How long will that take and what else will go wrong while I’m waiting?” 

The Sask. Party made no changes to their pre-pandemic budget to address the changed reality that COVID presented in our health system. In the June budget, no additional money was allocated despite hundreds of surgeries being cancelled over three months. Since then, the Finance Minister has committed to austerity budgets - meaning deep cuts to the health care that families rely on.

“We understand the impact of COVID-19 on the surgical backlog,” said Meili. “But the government can’t just throw their hands up and not deal with the problem when so many people are suffering. The status quo is hurting families. We need action now.”