Saskatoon Healthcare in Trouble

BY: KARI OLFERT, THINKSASKATOON

$4 Million dollars; Saskatoon’s Healthcare is overspending this much every month.

What is Saskatoon Healthcare? Hospitals, drugs, and doctors, oh my! Our healthcare costs consist of every visit to a clinic or hospital and all the resources involved with that. Snoozing, right? Why should you care? Great healthcare enables us to live longer and be healthier while doing so.

Currently, Andrew Will (who is replacing Mike Stensrud as the CEO of the Saskatoon Health Region, until he returns from his leave) is thoughtfully considering how we can save money with our healthcare system to avoid massive layoffs. Key areas of focus, according to Will are:

…external contracts, purchasing, reducing unnecessary overtime, and financial accountability mechanisms, are those on which we can move quickly, will not have a negative impact on patient care nor result in immediate job loss within the Saskatoon Health Region.

Ouch. Even reading this tiny snippet from the letter sent to the Health Regions employees sounds scary. The union followed up with a letter from their own president asking that no one post to social media in these regards and to send any money-saving ideas to them directly. Luckily I am not an employee of Healthcare. So here we go, talking about it on social media like I live in a free economy.

According to the Canadian Institute for Health the main increases in Canadian Healthcare come from hospital costs, drugs, and physicians. Every person costs our healthcare just over $6,000 per yearn average (which is also predicted to increase simply because things cost more, our population is growing, and inflation).

How can we cut our costs in our Saskatoon Healthcare and where do we need to put our focus, instead of ‘thoughtfully thinking’ of a plan, while health staff worry about losing their jobs?

  • Executive Pay for Performance: Numbers matter. While we are trying to save $4 million dollars a month, maybe we should remember that when the CEO of the Saskatoon Health Region makes his numbers he receives a bonus. Is this fair? What numbers should we focus on?

Will’s goal of ‘sustainability’ does not match the current Canadian Health trend and ‘thoughtful’ consideration does not meet the demand of savings needed immediately. Like any good business, let us first look at the numbers and see how we can save money while also improving our healthcare, based on Canadian trends.

  1. Hospital Spending: A program that tracks costs. This would mean logging the cost of every item used, drugs administered, physicians and all staffs time. Then taking these numbers and comparing them against other departments and health teams. This is not to point fingers, this is a way to break down where costs are heavier and looking at that in more detail. Looking for high supply costs and excessive overtime hours.
  2. Drugs: No name vs brand name. Reducing costs by using generic drugs and substituting a less expensive product when appropriate to do so.
  3. Physicians: Utilizing staff by enlarging their roles. Physicians costs are rising and they are also the highest paid. To soften this cost, are we able to diversify training and have lesser paid staff do more time-consuming duties that the physician no longer needs to oversee? Time is money.

How can we carry out this and improve our current care? The U.S. is using a model to help them in SAVING $1 TRILLION DOLLARS.

HealthCare Spending

What could an action plan consist of?

As Will stated, by looking at costs in more detail. I would add cross checking department and health team costs and hours, while specifically focusing on the three increasing cost trends, hospitals, drugs and physicians.

What can we as Saskatoon citizens do to save money for our healthcare system?

  • Do not make needless trips to see a doctor, only go when you are VERY sick or need a prescription.
  • Eat healthy (and take vitamins) to support your own health.
  • Walk regularly (20 minutes of daily exercise is recommended). Walking is more/equally effective as some medications.
  • Wash your hands. This keeps all of us from getting ill.
  • Laugh. It keeps our immune system strong.

Resources:

Mike steps down and Will steps in

Andrew Will : Saskatoon Health Region Memo – December 10, 2015

Executive Pay for Performance – Saskatchewan Government

Union President’s Message – December 21, 2015 (Saskatoon Health Region)

National Health Expenditure Trends 1975-2015

Saskatoon Regional Authority: Financial Statements

Action Plan to Reduce Waste in U.S. Health Care Spending by $1 Trillion