6.7 Per Cent Increase Lifts Health Budget to Record $6.9 Billion
The Government of Saskatchewan is making the largest ever investment in health care for the 2023-24 budget to benefit patients and strengthen health care teams throughout the province. This year, the Ministry of Health will receive an increase of $431 million or 6.7 per cent over last year’s investment for a total of $6.867 billion.
New investments will grow the health care workforce, advance capital projects, support seniors, enhance mental health and addictions services, and build a stronger, more responsive health system through improvements to critical and acute care.
“Saskatchewan is growing and we are making record investments in our health care system to grow our health care workforce and strengthen the programs and services patients need in communities across our province,” Health Minister Paul Merriman said. “Our 2023-24 Health budget includes increased funding to recruit more doctors, hire more health care workers, perform more surgeries, improve emergency medical services, keep prescription drug costs low and build new hospitals. That’s growth that works for everyone.”
The 2023-24 Ministry of Health budget provides $4.433 billion in operating and targeted funding for the Saskatchewan Health Authority, which represents a $191.4 million or 4.5 per cent increase over last year.
Key 2023-24 Budget investments include $55.5 million for the Ministry of Health, as part of an overall investment of nearly $100 million across government, to support Saskatchewan’s four-point Human Health Resources (HHR) Action Plan to recruit, train, incentivize and retain more health care workers and physicians.
Over $22 million will be allocated for continued implementation of 250 new full-time positions and enhancement of part-time positions to full-time in rural and remote areas around the province. These positions were first announced in September 2022 as part of Saskatchewan’s four-point HHR Action plan. As of February 24, nearly 100 of these positions have been filled. An $11.9 million investment will continue supporting work underway to recruit internationally educated health care workers, including regulatory assessments, navigator services and settlement supports.
Other HHR investments include $3.1 million to create a new Registered Nurse travel pool program to help mitigate rural and remote health human resource pressures. A $2.0 million investment will provide for the continued provision of incentives of between $30,000 and $50,000 to recruit in nine high priority classifications in rural and remote Saskatchewan, in exchange for a three-year return-of-service.
This year’s budget allocates $4.3 million for the Saskatchewan International Physician Practice Assessment program, and $1.8 million for the Rural Physician Incentive Program to support physician recruitment and retention. A $1.3 million investment will fund the creation of Physician Assistant positions in Saskatchewan’s health care system for the first time. These new professionals will support primary health care teams and hospitals.
To better serve young patients and improve recruitment and retention of specialists, $2.3 million will be invested this year to establish a comprehensive pediatric gastroenterology program located at the Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital.
This year’s infrastructure investment will more than double to provide the largest health capital budget in history to ensure health care facilities across Saskatchewan are prepared to meet the needs of a growing and thriving province. A total $337.6 million, an increase of $181 million from the 2022-23 budget, will be dedicated to health care infrastructure, including improvements to information technology and equipment for hospitals and other care facilities.
Capital investment in facilities will provide continued funding for projects underway, including $98.6 million for the Victoria Hospital redevelopment project in Prince Albert, $38 million for the Weyburn General Hospital project, and $20 million for the La Ronge Long-Term Care project. The budget also includes $1.0 million each for the Watson Quill Plains Lodge redevelopment project and Estevan Long-Term Care redevelopment project, and $500,000 for continued planning and development of the Regina parkade.
Other infrastructure investments include:
- $65.7 million for maintenance and equipment;
- $10 million for the Grenfell Long-Term Care replacement project;
- $10 million for Regina Long-Term Care specialized beds;
- $5.2 million for the St. Paul’s Hospital Front Entrance Redevelopment; and
- $2.6 million in new funding to initiate work on other key infrastructure priorities, including developing plans for the Rosthern Hospital, Battlefords District Care Centre, and St. Anthony’s Hospital in Esterhazy.
Since November 2007, the Government of Saskatchewan has invested over $2.4 billion into facilities and equipment to improve the delivery of health care across the province.
“Our government recognizes the importance of maintaining a modern health care system that not only attracts and retains health care workers, but provides world-class care for patients, residents and communities,” Merriman said. “This year’s budget will also build a stronger, more responsive health system by investing in critical and acute care initiatives and anticipating future growth needs.”
Targeted investments reflect government’s commitment to continue addressing waiting lists. This year’s budget includes a $42.5 million funding increase to address surgical wait times and perform a record 103,000 surgeries in the province, 13,000 more than the pre-pandemic baseline. Investments totaling $16.5 million will also address waitlist targets in areas such as cardiosciences and neurosciences, medical imaging, and endoscopy through additional funds for staffing to ensure patients have timely access to these important procedures and diagnostics. A new mitral valve clip program will be established in Saskatchewan for the first time and additional transcatheter aortic valve insertion (TAVI) procedures will be funded in 2023-24.
The Royal University Hospital in Saskatoon and the Pasqua Hospital in Regina will see a nearly $20 million increase to fund 64 permanent acute and complex care beds split between the two centres. Additionally, there will be a $6.0 million increase to enhance ICU capacity and services across the province.
Support for mental health and addictions initiatives continue to be a priority. The 2023-24 budget provides a $12.4 million increase targeted toward new and existing programs for vulnerable citizens, children and youth. The total mental health and addictions investment of $518 million is the largest in Saskatchewan’s history.
“Mental health and addictions remains a high priority area for our government, and efforts will focus on introducing new supports for children and youth and ongoing increased supports to enhance established programs that assist vulnerable populations,” Mental Health and Addictions, Seniors and Rural and Remote Health Minister Everett Hindley said. “Our government is also making a significant investment in improving quality of life for senior citizens by increasing funding for home care and to support seniors residing in their own homes and communities. This year’s budget promotes the supports needed by seniors to age-in-place.”
Seniors will also benefit from a $39 million increase to provide additional standard long-term beds in Regina, increase financial support for third-party long-term care homes, fulfill government’s commitment to hire 300 additional continuing care assistants (CCAs) province wide, and fund additional home care.
The 2023-24 budget also makes important investments in the Prescription Drug Plan with an additional $25.7 million provided in this year’s budget. This increase will fund utilization pressures, including growth in the number of patients needing coverage, increase in prescription volumes and high-cost drugs.
This budget provides funding to other key commitment areas such as an $8.8 million increase to enhance emergency medical services (EMS) and provide reliable emergency health care services. This funding will go toward stabilizing services in a number of rural and remote areas, additional support for contracted EMS operators and EMS system and radio upgrades.
A $6.6 million increase will be directed to public health and primary and community care initiatives. Increased funding will enable HealthLine 811 to boost staffing levels, including five additional virtual triage physicians who provide virtual care to patients. This budget will provide additional support for the Regina Chronic Pain Clinic, increase programming to reduce communicable diseases, and support for early childhood immunization campaigns as well as further development of the province’s primary care strategy.
The 2023-24 budget includes $5.0 million for operating costs for the Regina Urgent Care Centre. Once open, this facility will function as a more suitable option for treatment of ailments, injuries and mental health illnesses that are not life threatening but require immediate treatment. The Regina Urgent Care Centre will alleviate pressures on the city’s two Emergency Departments. Work will also continue in 2023-24 on the development of the Saskatoon Urgent Care Centre in partnership with Ahtahkakoop Cree Nation.
Other commitments in the 2023-24 budget include a $6.5 million increase for cancer care, including a $2.9 million increase for the Saskatchewan Cancer Agency. This investment will provide funding for oncology drugs and additional direct care support staff for patients.