A briefing note obtained by the NDP through FOI and responses to written questions show that emergency rooms in Regina are significantly underfunded and understaffed. Sent on SHA letterhead before the SHA’s “hush memo” was circulated in September, the memo involves physician leaders “requesting more resources for their portfolio.”
“Last month we released documents pointing to ‘an extreme overcapacity crisis’ in Saskatoon ERs. As the documents we’re sharing today show, the situation in Regina is even worse,” NDP Leader Ryan Meili said. “Instead of working to address the shortfall, this government seems more focused on telling frontline workers not to ask for the resources they need to do their jobs in our hospitals. The Sask. Party’s attempts to hide the problems in health care are letting people down.”
Long waits to see specialists and no proper access to overnight care drive people needing help into emergency rooms — a significant cause of the overcrowding in Regina ERs. The SHA memo shows that in Saskatoon, wait times are 2.8 hours in the ER to see a doctor, while wait times in Regina are 5.3 hours for the same care.
This is unsurprising, since, as the July 2019 memo points out, “The Regina Department of EM [Emergency Medicine] has historically been underfunded with regard to emergency physician (EP) staffing.” According to the memo, the full-time equivalent number of EPs in Regina is 31.3, which is nearly 40% lower than the number in Saskatoon and also below the number recommended in the 2016 Peachy Report.
Answers to written questions submitted by the NDP further illustrate the significant disparity in the number of specialists in Regina compared to Saskatoon. There are 98% more anesthesiologists practicing in Saskatoon than there are in Regina, as well as 73% more cardiologists, 78% more internists, and 118% more psychiatrists. Despite being significantly better resourced than Regina, Saskatoon is itself in the midst of an “extreme overcapacity crisis,” according to the SHA.
“This is a government that is more concerned with stamping out ‘discordant messaging’ than addressing hallway medicine” Meili said, referencing the SHA hush memo the NDP shared last month. “It’s time we put people first by ensuring proper funding and enough staff to address the long waits we’re seeing in emergency rooms.”