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The Wall government’s decision to “approve in principle” the construction of a new ambulatory care facility in Regina is terrific news for patients and a fitting way to mark the 50th anniversary of Medicare in the province, says CUPE Saskatchewan President Tom Graham.

“Saskatchewan residents have waited a long time for the Wall government to invest in public solutions to wait times and improved patient care,” says Graham. “I’m very pleased that wait may soon be over.”

The long- promised public day surgery centre in Regina, first announced by the former NDP government in 2007, included plans for five operating rooms with the capacity to 7,000 outpatient surgical procedures a year, a new diagnostic imaging centre and pre-admission clinic for all surgical patients in the region.

But the ambulatory care centre required life support in 2009, when the Wall government postponed capital funding and instructed the Regina and Saskatoon health regions to contract-out surgeries and diagnostic tests to private for-profit companies.

The government claimed for-profit clinics would increase surgical capacity and reduce wait times, but the contracting-out decision has not been a positive experience for patients or residents in the Regina Qu’Appelle Health Region. Last month, the health region board held an emergency meeting to address the on-going surgical problems.

Gordon Campbell, the President of the CUPE Health Care Council, notes the Wall government’s decision to support a new public day surgery and outpatient care centre will help the Regina Qu’Appelle Health Region “comply with our arbitration decision that restricts contracting-out of and protects public health care.”

In the case, which was initiated by CUPE in 2010, arbitrator Dan Ish ruled the health region cannot contract-out surgeries and diagnostic tests past 2013 because it is more cost-effective to perform the work in the public health system.

The new Plains Surgery and Outpatient Care Centre will include a full range of services such as surgery, diagnostic imaging, outpatient cancer care and rehabilitation.