“This is inexplicable, really, and I think it’s on the premier to explain how it is that his government can turn up their nose at this offer from this very generous resident.”
Opposition NDP Leader Carla Beck was at a loss for words as news broke throughout the province Tuesday that back in May, the provincial government had declined an offer of $2 million for an MRI machine at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Estevan, along with the training of two technicians for it.
The offer had been made by Elaine Walkom in March and was intended for the benefit of the residents of southeast Saskatchewan. The offer was made to help save patients the hours of driving to get MRIs from places like Moose Jaw or Regina. In the words of Walkom in the letter making the offer, it would also ease the burden on other facilities in the province.
In response, the provincial Minister of Health at the time, Paul Merriman, responded by saying the donation would not be going to a new MRI, as there were concerns about the operational funding of the equipment, as well as anticipated service volumes, recruitment of the staff for the MRI as well as wait times.
When contacted for follow-up regarding the story as it broke Tuesday, a written response was received from the provincial government. The statement read:
“We thank Ms. Elaine Walkom for her generosity and for her interest in contributing to health care in Estevan. The Ministry of Health looks forward to further discussing opportunities to advance healthcare services in Estevan with Ms. Walkom and St. Joeseph’s Hospital Foundation in the near future.
“The development of a thorough plan is key to determining if and how a new health care service can be supported and accessible in the long term. The Ministry of Health is actively working with the operator of St. Joseph’s Hospital, Emmanuel Health, to develop a plan to support discussions on this issue.”
Requests for an interview or further clarification by the Ministry of Health were declined.
For Beck, the response to the initial offer made little sense.
“Anyone who’s on a waitlist knows that there is not enough capacity in the province right now,” Beck said, commenting on the existing wait times for an MRI. As of June, the 90th percentile was 246 days. This meant that nine out of ten people who are waiting for an MRI would receive one in that time frame.
“We have the longest wait times in the country for knee and hip replacement surgery, and I people out there know someone who’s been struggling with that pain, they know how desperate people would be and how much they would appreciate being on a shorter list and being able to, in the case of the 70,000 people in the southeast corner, receive one a little bit closer to home.”
Beck also agreed that no matter the location of a new MRI machine in Saskatchewan, it would be a benefit for everyone in the province by helping to alleviate the burden.
“When we have capacity in a place like Estevan, or Swift Current, or anywhere in the province, that alleviates pressure from the larger centers as well,” Beck added.
“The reality is, Scott Moe is been the premier of this province for five years. This is his record. This is his government. He has the mandate to fix healthcare in the province, the responsibility to fix healthcare in this province, and if he can’t get it done, then he should admit that to the people of this province because they deserve better than this.”
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