Two opposition NDP MLAs were in the Battlefords on Tuesday to meet local residents on health care issues.
Vicki Mowat, the opposition health critic, and Danielle Chartier, mental health and addictions critic and the seniors critic, were in North Battleford for a town hall meeting at the Don Ross Centre over the noon hour.
These town halls, which the NDP calls “health check-ups,” have focused on health care issues and coming up with plans to address those issues. They also held a town hall meeting in Prince Albert on Monday, where the need for a new hospital was one issue raised, and they plan to attend another one in Moose Jaw June 24.
“We’ve been doing the public events with the ‘health care checkups’ to engage with people locally and hear what their issues are,” said Mowat.
These have paired those with other meetings with people in the community, with much focus on mental health and addictions. According to an NDP news release, those were scheduled to be with Catholic Family Services, Battle River Treaty 6 Health Centre, and the Battlefords branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association.
A number of issues were brought up at the Battlefords town hall meeting. Chartier pointed to one of those being “barriers everywhere you turn” for people seeking addictions help, whether it is detox or residential support.
“We understand in the Battlefords one of the huge concerns is the lack of a detox facility,” said Chartier.
“It becomes very hard when you are a person who is very ill suffering from a substance abuse disorder to get yourself to either Meadow Lake or Lloydminster, and from there to wherever you need to go afterwards.”
Chartier also pointed to concerns raised about long term care, particularly about short staffing in long term care homes. There were also concerns raised about wait lists, and with people being pushed into the private system, she said.
Another issue was the need to monitor physicians who were prescribing opioids, with Chartier pointing to incidents where opioids were prescribed “even when a patient is reluctant and doesn’t want them.”
Mowat said they spoke about the need to make “de-prescribing” or being able to get off of medication a priority. “There’s a national body called Choosing Wisely that has looked a little bit at de-prescribing and what some of the benefits are. Their approach is about minimizing harm to patients and also saving money by making sure that we are reducing unnecessary treatments and really looking at reducing harm.”
Chartier also noted the issues about suicides in the community and she pointed to a private members’ bill by fellow MLA Doyle Vermette for a suicide prevention strategy.
There were also concerns raised about private health care, including concerns about P3s. One item that came up, Mowat said, was the recent Sask Hospital build and the P3 model, and the concerns raised after the entire roof had to be replaced.
“I think there is a lot of lessons to be learned from the experience at Saskatchewan Hospital,” said Mowat. “We’re tied into a 30 year contract that lacks transparency where we don’t know what we signed up for. And there’s already all these issues about quality that has to be sacrificed. We’re talking about having to replace a brand new roof and all the implications for patients and families and for staff.”
Mowat said the disruption to patients was all she was thinking about when minister Jim Reiter was announcing the issues with the roof. “Of course there’s going to be a significant impact,” she said.
The MLAs say they will continue to push some of the common themes raised from these meetings, such as on access to addictions treatments and access to long-term care.
“Honestly, everywhere we go those are things people are talking about,” said Chartier.