Saskatchewan Legislature. Wikimedia by wallissteveThroughout the pandemic, the Saskatchewan government has shown its reluctance to listen to medical experts to enact public health measures in a timely way. This mishandling has directly contributed to today’s current backlog of surgeries. CUPE 5430 is concerned about the backlog for surgical procedures and diagnostic services, but improvements can and must be made within our public and universal health care system.

“Contracting out surgeries is not a magic silver bullet for wait times. There is a limited pool of health care staff, and privatization of more health care services will pull medical staff away from the public system,” said Bashir Jalloh, president of CUPE 5430. This decision will only worsen our recruitment and retention challenges.

Contracting out surgeries will cost our citizens more. Private clinics operate on a profit model and have higher administrative fees than public surgeries. A 2011 BC study found that knee surgery for injured workers in a for-profit clinic cost $3,200 compared to $960 in a public hospital.

Furthermore, there is little evidence that contracting out surgical procedures will result in shorter wait times. Even in the case of private surgeries these patients come back to the public system for follow up, home care and  therapies – programs that are also experiencing backlogs. Studies have also found that for-profit facilities often cut corners to reduce costs, which leads to lower quality care.

“There are significant challenges in recruitment and retention that the government simply isn’t dealing with. Across our health care system, staffing levels should be increased to reduce wait times and improve quality of care,” added Jalloh. We need to invest in our health care infrastructure to address our old and crumbling buildings. No amount of private surgeries will address the large scale issues our health care system is facing.