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Sask. budget boosts health infrastructure spending to more than $500M

The Saskatchewan budget includes $180 million for the expansion of Victoria Hospital in Prince Albert. Construction is expected to begin this spring and be completed in 2028 for a total cost of $898 million. (Chanss Lagaden/CBC - image credit)
The Saskatchewan budget includes $180 million for the expansion of Victoria Hospital in Prince Albert. Construction is expected to begin this spring and be completed in 2028 for a total cost of $898 million. (Chanss Lagaden/CBC - image credit)

The Saskatchewan government's 2024-25 budget includes more than half a billion dollars for construction projects in Prince Albert, Weyburn and other centres.

But health-care workers say new buildings won't help much if there isn't enough staff.

"It's disappointing," said Saskatchewan Union of Nurses president Tracy Zambory. "You can't improve health care without the people that actually deliver the service."

Zambory called the overall health budget "smoke and mirrors." She said too much money is being spent on short-term contract workers and not enough on retention and hiring of permanent staff.

The infrastructure spending in the budget is part of $7.6 billion in health spending, a 10.6 per cent increase from last year.

The infrastructure spending includes:

  • $180 million for the Prince Albert Victoria Hospital redevelopment project.

  • $55 million for the Weyburn General Hospital replacement project.

  • $27 million for construction of the La Ronge long term care project.

  • $22 million to complete construction on the Regina General Hospital parkade.

  • $20 million for Regina's long-term care specialized beds project.

The total of $516.8 million in health infrastructure spending is an increase of $179.3 million from the previous budget.

Saskatchewan Health Minister Everett Hindley said a Regina urgent care centre, an expansion of nurse practicioner services and other measures announced in Wednesday's budget will take pressure off other parts of the system.
Saskatchewan Health Minister Everett Hindley said a Regina urgent care centre, an expansion of nurse practicioner services and other measures announced in Wednesday's budget will take pressure off other parts of the system.

Saskatchewan Health Minister Everett Hindley speaks to reporters Wednesday after the provincial budget was presented. (CBC)

On Monday, the federal government announced $560 million in health transfers to Saskatchewan to be spent in various areas including recruitment, retention and training.

The provincial budget includes an additional $59.4 million for "targeted initiatives to expand access to primary, community and seniors' care" across the province.

The government plans to spend $30 million to address capacity pressures in Regina and Saskatoon, and $10 million for the Regina Urgent Care Centre.

The cancer care budget will increase by 11 per cent. The Saskatchewan Cancer Agency will receive an increase of $26.1 million, to bring its budget to $249 million. This will include $3.5 million to establish Regina's new breast assessment centre.

The mental health and addictions budget will be $574 million, more than seven per cent of the total health budget.

Bashir Jalloh, who represents health workers in the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) said there is a desperate need for more long term care facilities. He said there are 80 people competing for every bed that becomes available in a typical Regina care home.
Bashir Jalloh, who represents health workers in the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) said there is a desperate need for more long term care facilities. He said there are 80 people competing for every bed that becomes available in a typical Regina care home.

Bashir Jalloh, who represents health workers in the Canadian Union of Public Employees, says there is a desperate need for more long-term care facilities. (CBC)

Bashir Jalloh, who represents health workers in the Canadian Union of Public Employees, said there is a desperate need for more long-term care facilities. He said there are 80 people competing for every bed that becomes available in a typical Regina care home.

Jalloh echoed Zambory's comments that worker retention is key to improving the system.

"If you're going to build a big building … you have to be able to staff it," he said.

Health Minister Everett Hindley said the government is continuing to build on its "health human resources action plan," introduced a couple of years ago, with its focus on remote and rural communities.

He said Regina's urgent care centre will open later this year, "and it will be fully staffed." He said there are efforts to allow nurse practitioners to expand their services through clinics in Warman and other centres.

He said these and other measures will take pressure off other parts of the system.