Lots of work still ahead as SHA celebrates first anniversary

Victoria Hospital. -- Herald file photo.

The Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) will look at expanding services at the Victoria Hospital even before a new facility is built, CEO Scott Livingstone said Tuesday.

Livingstone and board chair Dick Carter spoke to media on the one-year anniversary of the formation of the province-wide authority. Livingstone discussed challenges, accomplishments and future plans on the call. While he said much has been done, he stressed that a lot of work still lies ahead.

It may take many years and it’s going to be challenging, but we’ve been making progress,” Livingstone said in his prepared comments.

“We’ve achieved many things, some of which may seem basic or elementary, but this is part of us building a strong foundation to support this entity that we’ve created to support health care services across the province of Saskatchewan.”

Over the past year, services have begun to be consolidated. That includes the addition of the Roy Romanow Provincial Laboratory and the doctor recruitment program to the SHA umbrella. Both those services were previously separate from any health authority.

According to Livingstone, th­at move helps to ensure services such as doctor recruitment are equitable for all regions and are no longer a competition between different locations.

“The more time we spend looking into things, the more benefit we see that the provincial (lens) is providing us to create a system that ultimately will be more responsive to the people that we serve,” he said.

“Without a doubt, I think it’s the right decision.”

One thing the new health authority underestimated was how much variation there was going to be across the system. Livingstone said the province-wide health authority has inherited 14,000 corporate and clinical policies it needs to consider and combine into province-wide directives.

“We have 12 of everything,” he said. It will be important…to create SHA-based policies across the province. It’s also important to do that with the proper due diligence because clinical policies have clinical risk. As we’re looking into the operations, we found more variation than we originally thought we would find. It’s a bigger challenge in bringing that together, but at least, so far, we have brought that to light and have worked hard to bring standards across the province.”

Livingstone would not say how many people had been laid off or how much had been paid out in severance. He said the work of moving through the organizational structure is not yet complete. He also didn’t provide a concrete dollar amount of any savings that had been achieved, only stating the $9.7-million savings target.

According to Livingstone, the new structure is benefitting the north.

Partnerships have been created with physician leaders teamed up with a vice president. Those teams represent three different areas: Regina and Saskatoon, rural areas in the southeast and southwest, and the north.

“The thing that our organizational structure does is it gives the north the same exact representation it does the rest of the province, so it’s a voice that’s heard at the same table with the same leadership team that hasn’t existed before,” he said.

“I think one of the things our structure has done has raised the profile and the voice of the north, and understand that as we move forward with clinical, administrative and structural decisions associated with the evolution of our organization, the north is represented as well as any other area of our province.

While the new structure may have helped the north, Livingstone said it hasn’t done anything to speed along the development of a new or expanded Victoria Hospital. He did, though, stress the need for growth at the facility.

“We know that facility, operationally, is often at capacity or over capacity,” he said.

“It’s not a facility that’s run down or out of shape, it’s us that busy today. We know that … is of the highest priority for replacement,” he said.

“The one things we do have to recognize around P.A. is it is important from a provincial programming perspective,” he continued.

“It’s not just a typical regional hospital that provides a very broad depth of services. It’s one of those areas where we’re hoping to expand services even before a new facility is built because we have those demands today. Pediatric care, with the new children’s hospital coming online will be one of the first model lines we will create to show how we will integrate clinical services across the province.”

The discussion surrounding the Victoria Hospital wasn’t the only time Prince Albert was mentioned on the call. A pilot program undertaken by Parkland Ambulance was also mentioned as an example of the sort of home-based care the SHA hopes to expand province-wide.

“Paramedics in Prince Albert are now visiting care homes to meet residents as part of a pilot program, Livingstone said.

“The program received 98 calls and prevented 87 trips to the emergency department in the first 90 days of functioning.”

In the future, home care will be fundamental, he said.