March 31, 2023

Government and SMA announce changes designed to improve patient access and alleviate pressure on emergency rooms

The Government of Saskatchewan and the Saskatchewan Medical Association (SMA) today announced an agreement in principle on enhancements to physician compensation designed to improve patient access to family physicians.

Increased funding will be made available to urgent care clinics offering after-hours, urgent care services to improve access for patients to reduce pressures on emergency departments. Urgent care clinics provide regular extended hours access on evenings, weekends, and holidays to all patients with an enhanced suite of services such as lab, casting and suturing.

In addition, all community-based, fee-for-service family physicians will be eligible to receive an additional payment per visit service. This change is aimed at supporting community-based family physicians to extend their office hours if they are able. Both these changes will help reduce the volume of patients attending emergency departments for less severe needs, decreasing wait times in the emergency departments.

“Ensuring patients have access to family physicians and primary care services remains a top priority for our government,” Health Minister Paul Merriman said. “Working closely with the SMA, we have heard and are responding to fee-for-service family physicians’ concerns. We know there is more work to do, and our government will continue to make record investments to build a stronger health care system that works for everyone.”

SMA president Dr. John Gjevre said this is a positive step in improving access for patients.

“Patients’ access to family physicians is a serious problem that we all care about and these measures – while not a comprehensive solution – will help with access while reducing the pressure on emergency departments,” said Dr. Gjevre.

“We continue to work with the Ministry of Health on other, sustainable changes – including a new compensation model for fee-for-service family physicians and a move to family physician-led care teams in the community. We believe strongly such changes will further help address the pressures our patients and family physicians are experiencing. We must retain the community of Saskatchewan family physicians providing full-service family medicine while ensuring Saskatchewan is an attractive place for future family physicians to work,” Dr. Gjevre added.  “We hope to see progress on these efforts soon.”

This agreement in principle complements the Government of Saskatchewan’s nearly $100 million investment in 2023-24 to support the Health Human Resource Action Plan and further advance work to recruit, train, incentivize and retain more doctors and other healthcare professionals. This includes the recently announced enhancement of the Rural Physician Incentive Program which now offers up to $200,000 over five years to family physicians practising, or returning to practice, in rural and remote communities.


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