Single health authority predicted to have benefits

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January 12, 2017 12:00 AM

The Province of Saskatchewan recently decided to amalgamate its health regions to a single health authority, a move officials hope will make operations more efficient for both the system and its patients.
The land of the living skies currently has 12 health regions and Greg Ottenbreit, minister responsible for rural and remote health, said the focus now is to get the system to truly think and act as one.
“I think Lloydminster should realize a lot of the same changes, or might not perceive any changes, as the rest of the province,” Ottenbreit told the Source.
“We want to, of course, save on finances and get our administration to a level that is acceptable for a province our size.”
The potential savings associated with consolidation are currently estimated in the range of $10-20 million by 2018-19.
Examples of potential savings include: moving from 12 Boards to a single board will save approximately $700,000 a year in board governance costs; approximately $160 million per year is spent on information technology across the health system (RHAs, Saskatchewan Cancer Agency, eHealth Saskatchewan and 3sHealth).
Consolidation of information technology for RHAs provides the opportunity to save approximately $9 million per year.
The Ministry of Health accepted all recommendations made by the panel, which include, but aren’t limited to:
Establishing a board to govern the activities of the Provincial Health Authority.
Creating the capacity to standardize data collection and analysis across the health system, in order to understand, monitor, improve and report in a timely manner, on health system performance.
And pursuing opportunities for consolidation of clinical services within, and across, the service integration areas.
The advisory panel recommended splitting the province up into anywhere form three to six service integration areas, instead of the current regions, by recognizing patient and traffic flows that would be more convenient for the patients and clients, as opposed to the healthcare system itself. 
Where these service integration areas will fall is up to the incoming board of directors, and Ottenbriet assured the government is focusing on making sure the system runs better, is kept sustained, maintained, and even strengthened with the services already provided.
Ottenbreit acknowledged some criticism thrown by the public and opposition parties that the process was rushed and not thought out, but defended the government’s decision, saying a lot work went in ahead of time regarding the advisory panel and added he was happy with how the process turned out.
“They (panel) had about a month that they took, and although that sounds like a short time, they were very busy,” he said.
“They took a month of 30 face to face meetings with the significant stakeholders throughout the province, whether it’s doctors, nurses, EMS, unions, region representation, ministry people—through the whole gamut—pretty much anybody you could think of, or anyone who called us and asked if they could present to the committee.” Another question regarding the move to a single authority involved the potential for job losses, and though the minister said none are anticipated for frontline workers, those who work in administration can expect a shake up.
“Where there will be job losses is the administrative level, but you’re still going to need IT, you’re still going to need management in what would be the current regions and the cities and areas,” Ottenbreit said.
“But when you look at the top level administration, that’s where you’re going to see changes, and not to say there’s no opportunities within the system coming up for them to apply for different positions within that system, but there will be less administration in the province then there is now.”
The minster said a board will be in place and planning will be well underway by fall, giving the government and transition team time to finish developing their vision of what the new structure will look like before they start implementing the changes.

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