Saskatchewan Surgical Initiative uses private clinics to reduce wait times

Saskatchewan has gone from having the longest wait times for medically necessary surgeries to the shortest in Canada  finds a new study by Professor Janice MacKinnon, former Saskatchewan Finance Minister (1993 – 1997) and published April 26, 2016, by the Fraser Institute.

Success of the Saskatchewan Surgical Initiative [SSI] is based on a set of practical reforms including pooled referrals for treatment, introducing more collaborative decision-making by health care stakeholders, focusing on patients and the use of private for-profit clinics.

“By focusing reforms on practical solutions rather than ideological preferences, the Government of Saskatchewan has markedly reduced wait times in a fairly short period of time,” concludes Professor MacKinnon.

She has previously published Minding the Public Purse: The Fiscal Crisis, Political Trade-offs, and Canada’s Future and a paper for the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, “Health Care Reform from the Cradle of Medicare.”

One of the key SSI reforms was pooling referrals for medical treatment and allowing patients to select physicians on the Internet based in part on the information provided regarding comparative wait times.

Another critical reform was the contracting-out of day surgeries covered by Medicare to private for-profit clinics. No additional fees or charges were permitted, which meant the province and the use of the clinics was within the guidelines of the Canada Health Act.

The use of the private for-profit clinics has also come with reduced costs. On average, the 34 procedures performed in the clinics cost 26% less per procedure than in comparable public hospitals. For example, in 2012, cataract treatment cost the public system $1,273 at the public Regina Qu’Appelle Regional Health Authority compared to $618 at the private Surgical Centres Inc.

Canada’s government-run health care system – Medicare -- is a monopoly that prohibits private hospital and private physician care. Medicare is a subpar performer, ranking 10th among 11 advanced countries. Canadians deserve much better! Patients deserve timely access to quality care and choice of hospitals and physicians. Taxpayers deserve much more value for their tax dollars.

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