Exactly one year ago, we almost lost our community doctor. He serves patients from Hazlet to Portreeve out of his clinic in Cabri, and at the Prairie Health Care Center. As a group of communities, we rallied together and fought to keep him here. We formed a committee that asked questions, met to problem solve, and to try to connect with the employees at these facilities to better understand its inner workings. We met with government officials and senior administrators from the Cypress Health Region to address our concerns, the most significant being the loss of 24 hour health care at our facility, and the depletion of services, overall.
A short time ago, we had a beautifully functioning system, where if you as a patient needed care after regular hours, you could go the Prairie Health Care Center. Either Cabri’s doctor, or the doctor in Gull Lake was on call. A nurse would greet you, assess you, and then consult with one of these doctors over the phone. Necessary treatments would take place, or if serious enough, the patient would be transferred to the regional hospital. This process worked nearly flawlessly, and all community members knew exactly what to expect. All in all, nursing staff, our physicians, and our community members were happy.
Last year, the Cypress Health Region deemed this practice “unsafe” and obliterated it, effectively resulting in the elimination of 24 hour health care in Cabri. This not only fragmented our services, it also resulted in a loss of income for many of our health care professionals and a disruption in their home lives. Our community fought to have these services reinstated. Again, we met with administrators from the region, government officials, and held a community meeting to raise awareness and to ask people to fight for their services.
Recently, the Leader Post published an article titled “Saskatchewan Ponders New Form of Rural Health Care.” The article outlined an innovative new strategy being used in Nova Scotia called Collaborative Emergency Centers that help to alleviate the obvious issues that surround 24 hour health care for rural physicians. It says, “at night, CEC’s don’t have a physician on site. Paramedics and nurses respond to emergencies” and that “if a life threatening case comes through the doors of a CEC at night, the on-call workers immediately transfer the patient to the closest hospital.” The article cites that the new program means “doctors aren’t as pressured to work nights, allowing them to provide better patient care during the day.”
For those served by the Prairie Health Care Center, this model sounds familiar! Cabri followed this model for years, and our practices were deemed unsafe; but Nova Scotia does it, and they are innovators, drawing our government and health region officials all the way across the country to observe. It is our understanding at this time, that this new “CEC” program will be rolled out in Shaunavon and Maple Creek. Unfortunately, Cabri has not been named one of the sites for this “new” and innovative practice.
Cypress Health Region management has depleted services in Cabri almost to a point of no return. We are short staffed, without an Activity Director for our long term care patients, and our wonderful, dependable home care program is a shadow of what it once was. To add insult to injury, we have been unable to access the locum that the region hired (which was celebrated in the media) as he has been working full time in Maple Creek where they have been unable to recruit a physician. This locum was intended to help rural doctors get relief from their practices and responsibilities.
In the year that has passed, our committee has had no follow up from the senior administrative team regarding our loss of services, leading us to believe it is not a priority for them at this time. We feel that it is time that the communities served by this facility once again engage and become informed about what is happening around them. If not, we once again risk losing a facility that is a precious resource and, literally, the pulse of rural Saskatchewan. Our concerns are vast and reach well beyond this submission, so we urge you to contact your representative from this committee and ask more questions. It should be noted that the Chairperson of our committee wrote a letter to the Ministry to inquire about the CEC program for the purpose of gaining more information about how it works, and if it is a viable option for the Prairie Health Care Center. No follow up contact has been made in the months that have since passed.
Members of the Prairie Health Care Committee (representing Hazlet, RM of Pitville, RM of Riverside, Cabri, Abbey, Lancer, RM of Miry Creek, Wheatland Colony, Abbey Colony).