Budget 2021-22 Continues To Build Upon Record Investments In Saskatchewan Health Care
This year's record Health budget will ensure Saskatchewan people are protected through the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic while also continuing to build on record investments in mental health and addictions initiatives, enhancing critical care measures, improving provincial health care programs, and planning new infrastructure across the province.
The 2021-22 Ministry of Health budget is $6.12 billion, an increase of $261 million or 4.5 per cent from 2020-21. This is up $2.7 billion, or 78 per cent since 2007-08, and represents the largest health investment in Saskatchewan history.
"The Government of Saskatchewan has placed health care at the forefront of priorities to protect the lives and health of Saskatchewan people by dedicating millions more dollars to the COVID-19 response," Health Minister Paul Merriman said. "As we begin to emerge from this pandemic, hope lies ahead for better days and an eventual return to normal as our vaccination numbers increase daily."
A further $90 million will support the province's comprehensive COVID-19 response. Major costs associated with this funding include mass vaccination delivery; purchasing more personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies, supporting contact tracing measures and expansion of testing and assessment sites and resources. This funding will also provide for additional provincial laboratory capacity, as well as supports for long-term care.
"The provincial government remains fully committed to supporting Saskatchewan people through an experience never seen before in our lifetime, while also protecting our dedicated health care providers," Merriman said. "This record investment will carry us forward by continuing to build on our investments in mental health and addictions issues, providing focused improvements on critical and acute care needs, and building and upgrading our infrastructure system."
The Ministry of Health continues to grow mental health and addictions supports and services by investing a total of $458 million, a 5.4 per cent increase over last year, the largest budget in our province's history. This significant boost will assist individuals struggling with mental wellness and addictions issues with key investments in mobile harm reduction services, integrated youth services, more addiction treatment beds in Estevan and further support for Pillars for Life: The Saskatchewan Suicide Prevention Plan.
Overall, the budget provides a historic $3.96 billion to the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) - an increase of $221.4 million or 5.9 per cent over last year.
SHA funding highlights include:
- $1.2 million increase to address wait times for diagnostic imaging services by adding capacity for these specialized services;
- $950,000 increase for operations with the new CT Scan program in Melfort, which will improve overall wait times, particularly for patients in the northern part of the province;
- $869,000 increase for additional resources to the pediatric hematology oncology program including an additional specialist position in Saskatoon, nursing and other staff;
- $549,000 increase to expand interventional radiology services in Regina; and
- $334,000 increase for additional respiratory therapists in Prince Albert.
The Saskatchewan Health Authority will receive a $3.6 million increase for a four-bed Intensive Care Unit (ICU) expansion in Saskatoon: two beds at the Royal University Hospital (RUH) and two beds at St. Paul's Hospital. A $5.1 million budget increase will further establish the RUH 48-bed acute care unit. A $2.0 million increase will also provide for an expansion of resources and operations for the neonatal ICU at Victoria Hospital in Prince Albert to deliver the best care available for newborns.
The Saskatchewan Cancer Agency will receive their highest ever level of funding, with a $7.6 million or 3.9 per cent increase, bringing their annual grant to $204 million. This funding will include a $2.9 million increase for new oncology drug programs and growth in existing treatments and $425,000 to expand treatment available in Saskatchewan's regional hospitals. Funding will also be provided for a new medical oncologist position plus support staff to better care for Saskatchewan people.
A $5.0 million investment will increase supports for people with diabetes. Financial coverage will now include continuous and flash glucose monitoring systems for children and youth under 18 who are insulin dependent. The Insulin Pump Program is also expanding to support individuals of all ages with Type 1 Diabetes.
Children between the ages of six and 11 with Autism Spectrum Disorder will be eligible to receive individualized funding of $6,000 annually, in addition to children under age six who currently receive $8,000 annually. With this program expansion, up to 1,000 Saskatchewan children could benefit.
The Government of Saskatchewan is investing in health care programs to improve team-based care and service delivery within our communities. The $6.0 million in new funding will be directed to fulfill an $18 million continuing care aide (CCA) commitment, which will ultimately add 300 CCA positions to improve overall care for long-term care residents, plus strengthen and expand availability of home care services in rural and remote areas. Ninety CCA positions are expected to be added this year.
Frontline care providers and first responders will benefit from several significant expansions this fiscal year. Emergency Medical Services will receive a $6.6 million increase for initiatives such as staffing additional ambulances in Regina and Saskatoon; addressing delays when transferring patients to hospitals and other facilities, covering patient wait time fees, and funding new ambulance technology to improve service coordination and protect Saskatchewan residents.
A $4.4 million planned increase will focus on overall efforts to improve patient flow and reduce Emergency Department waits. This funding will support eight specific initiatives focused on reducing pressures and wait times in acute care facilities in Regina and Saskatoon, such as increasing convalescent hospital beds in Regina and expanding staff resources for Rehabilitation Day Services at City Hospital in Saskatoon.
Additional emergency care highlights include $1.4 million to add a new STARS helicopter to deliver emergency care resources faster to rural or remote sites. Total provincial funding for STARS in 2021-22 is now $11.9 million.
The province is continuing to renew, support and grow facilities within our health care infrastructure system. A further $21.1 million will support ongoing capital project work across Saskatchewan.
Plans continue for the development of the Weyburn Hospital with $1.4 million in funding. This future facility will feature25 acute care and 10 in-patient mental health beds, in addition to primary health care and emergency medical services and a helipad.
Urgent Care Centres in both Regina and Saskatoon will receive $5.7 million in funding this fiscal year. These dollars will assist with plan development around site acquisition, along with design, construction and future program and service delivery plans.
Progress also continues around the development of Victoria Hospital in Prince Albert. The province will fund a further $1.4 million to allow forongoing work tofinalize program and design plans for the facility.
eHealth Saskatchewan will receive $15.3 million, a 13.8 per cent increase to support operations, including new investments in security services and technologies to help protect Saskatchewan residents' personal health information.
- Other infrastructure highlights for 2021-22 include major long-term care (LTC) facility development across the province, including:
$3.6 million for the future Grenfell long-term care facility. Evaluations of design and engineering proposals are now complete and, once awarded, further project planning and activities will be underway;
- $7.6 million for the La Ronge long-term care facility with development work and land acquisition underway. This future 80-bed facility will feature 70 LTC beds and 10 respite care beds, plus space for an adult day program; and
- More than $1.0 million for future planning in Regina, Watson and Estevan for long-term care facilities.