The Saskatchewan Party government has signed a $6 million agreement with a Calgary based for-profit corporation, Canadian Surgery Solutions, to provide an undisclosed number of surgeries to Saskatchewan residents. Canadian Surgery Solutions is part of a national network of for-profit private surgical clinics owned by Kensington Capital Partners Limited, an investment firm with $2.6 billion in assets under management.

“Contracting out surgeries is not a silver bullet for wait times. It is a costly scheme with little evidence it will reduce overall wait times,” said Bashir Jalloh, President of CUPE 5430. “If the Saskatchewan Party government can afford to ship people out of province for surgeries, they can afford to invest in public solutions.”

The costs associated with private surgeries are staggering, with research from the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) showing that private surgeries are double what surgeries cost in the public system. According to CIHI, the average cost for a single hip or knee replacement operation in the public system is $12,223. Costs for private, for-profit replacement runs in the range of $20,000 to $28,000 depending on the clinic.

“The move towards further privatization will only worsen our recruitment and retention challenges. There is a limited pool of health care staff in Canada, and the privatization of more health care services will pull medical staff away from the public system,” added Jalloh.

CUPE 5430 is also concerned about the outcome for patients who must travel out of province. Travelling for surgery comes with extra costs and logistical hurdles and may lead to complications with recovery.

“Even in the case of private surgeries in Alberta, patients will re-enter the public system in Saskatchewan for follow up, home care and therapies – programs that are also experiencing backlogs,” said Jalloh. “Across our health care system, staffing levels should be increased to reduce wait times and improve quality of care.”

CUPE 5430 has been calling on the Saskatchewan Party government to look at public solutions such as expanding operating hours, hiring more staff, and opening more training spaces.

CUPE 5430 represents over 13,000 health care workers across Saskatchewan.