NDP hears health care concerns from local residents

Photo via Troy Parenteau.

Prince Albert residents had a chance to air some of their concerns about the provincial health system during an open house held by the provincial NDP Monday evening.

The town hall was one of many being held by the party as they tour the province to get a better handle on what’s working well and where health care in Saskatchewan needs improvement.

In addition to health critic Vicki Mowat and mental health critic Danielle Chartier, the local event was attended by social services critic and Prince Albert Northcote MLA Nicole Rancourt.

“Some of the big concerns we heard were about cuts across the board in health and in education,” Chartier said when reached by phone Tuesday evening.

She said some Prine Albert residents said that a lack of education funding has meant that key support people in schools have been cut.

The Saskatchewan Party has said the 2019-20 budget featured a record investment in education. But the NDP has pointed out that per-student funding, while higher than the past few years, is lower than it was a few years ago.

Another program brought up Monday night P.A. residents say has been cut was a program for meant to foster healthy relationships in men who had previously committed intimate partner violence. Residents also raised concerns about the lack of a mental health unit dedicated to children.

“You’ve got children and youth together and the life experiences of an eight-year-old are very different than that of a 17-year-old,” Chartier said.

“Having them share space while they’re dealing with their respective mental health issues isn’t good for the younger kids.”

Other discussions in the mental health space involved concerns about support to prevent young people from dying by suicide and about the continuity of care for patients battling substance use disorders.

“In terms of addictions, something we heard at the town hall I hear everywhere I go,” Chartier said.

‘A big issue is there’s no seamless service. You wait to get into detox …. And then you have to wait three to eight weeks to get a treatment bed if you need residential treatment. You’re always waiting, so when you need help, it isn’t there. With respect to substance abuse disorders, when someone asks for help, they need help now and you’ve got only a small window of opportunity to support them.”

Chartier added that concerns surrounding a lack of transportation for patients trying to receive treatment for substance use disorders were also expressed.

“We’ve also heard some issues about getting people …. From detox in one community to treatment in another because not everyone wants to go to treatment in their community where there might not be the right facility or the community may not have treatment.”

Chartier pointed out that many people trying to receive treatment might not have healthy family relationships, or may have cut friends out of their life as they tried to recover. Without public transit, she said, they struggle to get from one community to another.

“Those are some of the overarching themes we heard and quite frankly those are concerns we hear in most places we travel.”

Chartier said she also heard from a couple of mothers who have either lost a child or have a friend who has lost a child to suicide.

“My colleague Doyle Vermette from Cumberland has a private member’s bill calling for a suicide prevention strategy,” she said.

“There is all sorts of evidence showing the prevention strategy would reduce deaths. People in the community are hurting and want help. Some of the strongest advocates with whom I speak are those who have lost a loved one and know that we can do more.”