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SARM raises alarm on rural health-care crisis in Saskatchewan

The Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities (SARM) and the Saskatchewan Association of Nurse Practitioners (SANP), in collaboration with its member Rural Municipalities (RMs), is drawing attention to the pressing health-care crisis gripping rural Saskatchewan.

Across the province’s rural areas, there exists a critical shortage of health-care staff, creating significant challenges for residents seeking medical attention.

Recognizing the urgent need to address these gaps in rural health care, SARM is advocating for the government to take proactive measures to alleviate the strain on existing health-care resources.

They are calling for the utilization of qualified Nurse Practitioners as well as emphasizing the importance of reinstating programs like the Grow Your Own Nurse Practitioner Program, which would facilitate the training and deployment of NPs within rural communities.

“So there’s many ways we could definitely make some changes in a reasonable, short order of time,” said Rural Nurse Practitioner Association president Johanne Rust.

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The message is being echoed by the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities who agree health care is the number one issue among members.

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“Our hospitals and our health-care clinics are long distances apart, so this would give kind of a closer contact for rural residents to be able to go there, get assessed, referred if necessary but also get health-care delivery on the spot,” said Ray Orb from the association.

Click to play video: 'Saskatchewan health minister responds to retention rates among doctors, nurses serving rural communities'

Saskatchewan health minister responds to retention rates among doctors, nurses serving rural communities

Grow Your Own Nurse Practitioners was announced back in April 2014 but according to the association, it never came to fruition. The Ministry of health says it has been providing incentives for practitioners through student loan forgiveness and relocation grants for up to $40,000 over five years.

In a statement sent to Global News by the ministry, it says it “continues to move forward with several regulation amendments to expand the scope of practice and make Saskatchewan a more attractive place for nurses to practice medicine.”

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However, Rust says health-care workers continue to leave the province to work in other jurisdictions. “If we don’t act now and provide those same opportunities for people who live here, we run the risk of losing the people that we do have to other places.”

Rust says she hopes the government begins to make concrete decisions on rural health care as well as finding sustainable solutions for underserved communities.

By raising awareness and advocating for concrete solutions, SARM aims to ensure that rural residents have access to the essential healthcare services they deserve.

With files from Global’s Gates Guarin 

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