Health Minister Dustin Duncan hopes the major capital projects will help Saskatchewan's health. Photo by Rebekah Lesko.

Saskatchewan’s health is claiming over a third of the province’s entire 2015-2016 budget.

 

For another consecutive year, Saskatchewan is investing a record-setting number in health. The number is $5.12 billion. This is a 2.7 per cent increase from last year, an increase of $135 million.

 

The 13 Regional Health Authorities and Saskatchewan Cancer Agency received the majority of $3.31 billion, a funding increase of $55.7 million compared to last year.

 

As well, there will be investments in seniors’ care, programs aimed at reducing emergency department wait times and major capital projects, according to Finance Minister Ken Krawetz.

 

Health capital spending is sitting at $256.4 million for infrastructure for the year. The current plan is to invest over $700 million in health facilities over the next four years.

 

Health Minister Dustin Duncan said “moving forward with some capital projects has been a long time coming.”

 

“Two-thirds of health facilities were built before 1970, so we have a long ways to go, and we’re going to keep chipping away at it,” said Duncan. “We are starting to plan for new facilities because at some point it doesn’t make sense to put money into older facilities. That’s a part of the balancing act that we’re trying to play as well.”

 

However, there has been $27.8 million for critical infrastructure repairs of health facilities. 

 

But Danielle Chartier, health critic for the NDP said “the $28 million is a drop in the bucket.”

 

“Last year, we had to pry from the government a report the government had done on infrastructure which clearly illustrates $2.2 billion dollars (is needed), and that’s a conservative estimate in health care infrastructure across the province,” Chartier said.

 

Barbara Cape, president of Service Employees International Union West repeated a similar deficit figure.

 

“With health care, all of us in this province should be concerned. We’re facing a $2.2 billion dollar health care infrastructure funding deficit. That means our buildings are actually crumbling. For example, Royal University Hospital in Saskatoon is one frayed wire away from the whole place shutting down. And we’re talking about operating rooms and maternity and delivery wards.”

 

Cape explained an independent consultant did a review of facilities in Saskatchewan and came up with the $2.2 billion deficit.

 

“These places should be cathedrals. This is where our family members go at a time of crisis. We need to pay attention to these things,” Cape said.

 

“We need to be smarter with the way we are addressing some of these issues. If we think that just putting more money into the system, without changing the system is going to help the system, that hasn’t helped in the past,” said Duncan.

 

The major capital projects currently underway include the new Children’s Hospital in Saskatoon and the completion of the hospital in Moose Jaw ($7.8 million). Duncan claimed the hospital in Moose Jaw aims to finish by May and move in this summer.

 

As well, $129 million was allocated to begin construction to replace the Saskatchewan Hospital at North Battleford. This will first undergo a public-private partnership procurement evaluation. For Swift Current, a long-term care facility is being built using a P3 procurement model, which is estimated at $64.9 million. “Swift Current is a big project for the southwest and for the province. It’s 220 beds,” Duncan said.

 

In addition, $6.2 million is budgeted to start construction of the Leader care facility, which is expected to be ready March 2017. “Leader is a great project. That’s going to take four different community facilities and combine them into one facility,” Duncan said. There is also planning for rejuvenation of the Victoria Hospital in Prince Albert and replacement of long-term care facilities in Regina and La Ronge.