March 20, 2019

Physicians pleased with budget’s emphasis on mental health spending

The Saskatchewan Medical Association (SMA) applauds the provincial government’s 2019 budget for recognizing the dire need for more spending on mental health initiatives.

The SMA has been advocating for years for mental health spending in the province to align more closely with national standards, which is seven per cent of total health spending.

“The budget brings mental health spending to more than six per cent of total health spending, not including spending on addictions,” noted SMA President Dr. Siva Karunakaran. “We hope that some of the increased spending includes the hiring of more psychiatrists to meet the pressing need for more timely access to mental health services in Saskatchewan.”

A total of $402 million will be spent on mental health services, an increase of $30 million from a year ago. The increased spending and opening of the $400-million, 284-bed Saskatchewan Hospital in North Battleford are important steps toward providing better mental health services now and in the future, Dr. Karunakaran said.

Finance Minister Donna Harpauer forecast an increase in spending in the health portfolio of $196 million, or 3.7 per cent, for a total of $5.55 billion. The budget increases 2019-20 funding for physician services by $15 million. It will be used to pay for increased physician services, and the recruitment of new specialist and primary care physicians.

“An increase in health spending is always welcome,” Dr. Karunakaran said. “Overall, the budget attempts to recognize some of the cost pressures that the health-care delivery system continues to face.”

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