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Letter to the Editor – Saskatoon Health Region Cuts

Re: Saskatoon Health Region position cuts – one small cut for SHR, one giant problem for Saskatchewan

In the latest attempt to tackle its deficit, the Saskatoon Health Region (SHR) announced the elimination of two audiologist positions; one within the Saskatoon Hearing Aid Plan and one located in Prince Albert.

For a health region that employees over 15,000 people, cutting two audiologist positions may not seem significant at first glance, however the impact on patient care is significant.

When these cuts were made, SHR CEO Dan Florizone stated that “patient care and quality of care is #1… the goal is to minimize any negative outcomes on patient care.” Unfortunately, the immediate negative impact on patient care is obvious and will only become worse with time.

Unfortunately, the effects of these cuts also extend to the surrounding northern health regions including First Nations communities. The Kelsey Trail Health Region and the Prairie North Health Region had already lacked their own audiologists. They were forced to refer patients in need of audiology services to either of the Hearing Aid Plan audiologists in Prince Albert or Saskatoon. Additionally, in the past number of years, the Melfort Hearing Aid Plan clinic had been serviced by the Prince Albert audiologist, putting even more demand on an already thinly-spread service.

SHR has a 16+ month wait time for services and needs more, not fewer audiologists.

Audiologists are hearing specialists who diagnose and help those with hearing loss, balance problems and other communication issues. Those referred to the Hearing Plan would receive services including assessments, re-evaluations, re-programming of hearing aids, new ear molds and repairs.

Senior citizens make up about 40 per cent of those needing audiology services. They worked hard and paid taxes to help build Saskatchewan. SHR is making it difficult for them to access audiology services by eliminating two specialists who were already in high demand.

Additionally, a high percentage of children from the northern areas of Saskatchewan are referred for audiology appointments. Denying those children access to audiology services is not acceptable.

Although the SHR has spent a considerable amount of time struggling with deficits and considerable consultant dollars trying to make those deficits go away, it has not taken enough time to understand what impact the services of audiologists have on the residents of the SHR and beyond.

Patient care has been negatively affected.

Karen Wasylenko

President
Health Sciences Association of Saskatchewan

 

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