The Southey Health Committee disagrees with the SHA assessment that they have enough nurse practitioner services.
SOUTHEY — The former health centre building was built nearly seven decades ago and not to modern accessibility standards. Instead of throwing money at it, the Town of Southey decided to build a new health care facility to the tune of 1.2 million dollars funded by solely by Southey taxpayers without qualifying for any provincial or federal grants. Three rooms for phlebotomy services were drawn into the new design.
When it opened in late 2020, nurse practitioners provided two to three days of services, and a phlebotomist shared between Southey, Cupar, and Regina Beach provided two hours of services once a week. By July of this year, the phlebotomist moved on to other work; services were suspended. The SHA hasn’t been able to fill the position. Consistent nurse practitioners services are twice a week.
“Everybody that needs phlebotomy services and lab draws has to find a way to get to Regina now. And unfortunately, for these communities we don’t have taxi services [or] bus services anymore and for the Southey Lodge which has 30 people in it up to 100 years old, they come from all over so they may not have a friend or relatives who can take them for blood services. And that’s a real problem.” said Ken Staruilala, chair of the Southey Health Committee.
Like the Town of Nokomis fighting to keep its services, the Southey Health Committee is also fighting to keep theirs. The Southey Health Committee is part of the Primary Health Care Triad Committee, a member group formed with Regina Beach/Buena Vista and Cupar. They represent 10 villages RMs and towns.
In January of this year, the Southey Health Committee went to their community, crafting a letter they could send with their comments to the MLA of Last Mountain Touchwood, Travis Keisig, and Deputy Minister of Health Max Hendricks. The letter asked for safe and timely access – an increase in hours of nurse practitioners and an increase in lab hours from two to four hours per week. The letter said they had very limited primary care access. It gave examples of wait times over a month to see the nurse practitioner and that high demand was being placed on the phlebotomist resulting in people being turned away.
In June, the committee met with MLA Keisig, who took their concerns to Minister of Health Paul Merriman. In an undated form letter from the office of the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, Seniors and Rural and Remote Health, Everett Hindley responded.
He said ensuring stable rural health services is a priority and detailed the government’s plan to address the number of healthcare workers in the province. He noted in 2019 they provided an additional day of nurse practitioner services to Southey. After discussions, SHA advised that nurse practitioner and phlebotomy services in Southey were “well utilized” and that the two to three days/week of nurse practitioner services met the primary health needs of Southey area residents. The minister added that SHA advised them there were same-day nurse practitioner appointments available, “but there may be longer waits for nurse practitioner appointment requests that are in excess of 30 minutes.” The letter also said a meeting with an SHA lab manager would be scheduled to meet with the Primary Health Care Triad Committee.
Staruilala says the committee disagrees with the SHA assessment that they have enough nurse practitioner services. “We do data collection, and when there is a waiting list of 4-6 weeks…we certainly felt that wasn’t an acceptable response for meeting the needs of the communities.”
On Nov. 24, 2022, the Southey Health Committee sent an update letter to community mailboxes. It said that despite their efforts, they have not seen any changes and lab services had also been suspended, causing a major blow to the many seniors who depended on it and who don’t have access to Regina.
Nothing has changed for Southey since the update letter. However, on Tuesday, to recruit, train, incentivize, and retain over 1,000 more healthcare workers, MLA Travis Keisig announced in the house an “expanded eligibility for the recruitment incentive of up to $50,000 for hard-to-recruit positions.” Phlebotomy is included in the incentive.
As far as the meeting with an SHA lab manager, which Minister Hindley said was going to happen, the committee is still waiting for a date.
The Last Mountain Times reached out to SaskPolytechnic, Minister Everett Hindley’s Office, Lab Manager Betty Drewes and the nurse practitioners and will provide updates when we hear back from them.