Mayor Tony Mycock of Lanigan made the trip to the Legislative Building on April 6 to enlighten the Government about the challenges his community faces in securing adequate health care. The hospital in Lanigan closed 2 years ago during redeployment of staff during COVID. Despite assurances from the SHA and the government, the hospital can provide only lab and x-ray services. It has no acute beds, emergency services or extended supports.
Mayor Mycock, flanked by councillors James Stephan and Marilyn Bodner, and administrator Kelli Timmerman, attended the legislative session at the invitation of Opposition Health Critic Vicki Mowat. Mycock had voiced his concerns and was given an opportunity for a media session prior to Mowat’s addressing the community’s plight in session.
“Our hospital was closed in May of 2020 due to COVID reasons and reallocating of staff,” explains Mycock. “We have two doctors; we have the Lanigan and District Medical Clinic, so we do have doctors in town; they just can’t perform any emergency procedures or give any stitches or tetanus shots because there’s no hospital to do that in right now.”
The situation is at odds with the development of one of the world’s largest potash mining facilities just down the road at Jansen Lake. The BHP Jansen Lake Project houses workers that could conceivably see the need for emergency medical care at some point. A few miles in the other direction is Nutrien’s Lanigan mine that has had its workers able to access medical services in Lanigan prior to the hospital’s closure.
“BHP has been really instrumental in our fire department and the Lanigan and District Ambulance. BHP has been standing beside us as has Nutrien, because it's in their interest to have a hospital close to them as well.”
Ultimately, it’s the responsibility of the Saskatchewan Health Authority to hire the doctors, staff the hospital and maintain the facility. The crux of the problem comes down to availability of qualified staff for the hospital. It’s a situation that Rural and Remote Health Minister Everett Hindley admits is a tough one given the post-COVID demand for health workers across the province.
The Premier responded to Lanigan’s situation, citing other communities that have placed similar demands on the restoration of hospital services.
“We have seen in far too many communities across this province, this has been a very challenging two years for our health care sector,” said Moe. “Most importantly, to those folks that are working in those health care facilities in our communities across this province: know that this government is committed to reopening all of those services in each of those communities.”
The Premier alluded to a complex four-point plan, but did not set a timeline for the reopening of any specific facility.
Mycock and his council are sympathetic to the government’s plight, but he says that the critical point is to keep communication going as everyone works for a collective solution.
“Our visit was really to get some dialogue. We keep getting told it's going to open and there’s scheduled dates, and then things have changed because of COVID. I know they are struggling to find staff. We’ve been working with our local SHA representative to get things going. We just wanted somebody to meet with us, talk to us, and let us know there is a plan.”
Mycock is hoping the town can be part of a creative solution that sees emergency services restored, even if those services are provided in the health clinic as opposed to the hospital.
Mycock notes that Minister Hindley reached out late yesterday to arrange for a follow up meeting.