Tackling deficits while revamping healthcare

A deep recession, coupled with reduced federal transfers for healthcare, were two clear indicators that Saskatchewan’s health system was in crisis. The first order of business was to eliminate the annual deficit and balance the books, with the long-term goal of paying down the $15B debt. Louise Simard explains how Saskatchewan sought to accomplish this with a new plan for a revamped healthcare system. 

Saskatchewan took steps in the short-term in order to deal with the financial crisis, such as converting 52 rural hospitals into ambulatory care centres. Such a drastic move was expected to cause significant protest. However, the Saskatchewan government took steps to help ease the shock. The government involved key stakeholders and community leaders in the healthcare reform initiative to help draft and sell a vision for implementation. Ms. Simard notes that without this process, the plan would have been exceedingly difficult to carry out.

The result was rewarding. The annual deficit was eliminated after only one term and the restructuring is seen as an enduring legacy.

Louise Simard is the former Minister of Health for Saskatchewan. She served from 1991 to 1995.