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Saskatchewan reveals plans to reduce surgical backlogs

To cut the surgical backlog that built up during COVID-19, Saskatchewan Health Minister Paul Merriman has announced targets to perform an additional 7,000 surgeries in 2022-23 over pre-pandemic levels. Volume targets will grow by an additional 6,000 in 2023-24 and 5,000 in 2024-25.

The strategy was unveiled Thursday as redeployed SHA staff have been returned to their home positions including those in Lloydminster.

Officials say there will be an emphasis on surgical procedures with higher numbers of long-waiting patients, including hip and knee replacements, ear/nose/throat, dental and general surgeries.

Merriman noted that the targets were aggressive as they have a high mountain to climb.

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“This is our plan on the go forward basis to make sure we can achieve these targets. These are very aggressive targets that the government has set out, but we are very comfortable that we can achieve these targets to be able to get at the backlog. We have had a significant backlog due to the pressures of COVID.”

Merriman credited the role of the SHA in setting out the targets.

The catch up strategy will involve both public and private institutions and Merriman indicated that the cost remains to be determined.

“We haven’t split it out yet as to private and public, but it all will be publicly funded. We’re just working through this process right now, working with the SHA to get some capacity and some dollar amounts, and also the private industry to find that out. So as soon as we can get that information, it will probably be part of our budget process being announced.”

Officials are also making plans to raise permanent ICU beds from 79 to 90 by June 2022. They say this is a first step to achieving 110 ICU beds in the province.

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