Last week's announcement regarding the resurrection of a health-care centre on the southern outskirts of Regina might rightfully be met with mixed emotions from this corner of Saskatchewan.
The acknowledgement that there was a huge error made back in the 1990s to close the Plains Health Centre was front and centre with the announcement being made by Premier Brad Wall and Health Minister Dustin Duncan along with the Regina-Qu'Appelle Health Region.
When the Plains demise was announced by the Roy Romanow-led government of the day, most heads in southern Saskatchewan shook with disbelief. The choice was made to keep two ancient hospitals located in the central part of Regina operational, knowing that any expansion of services in the future was going to be costly, if not impossible. Lack of parking, the age of the buildings and all other logistical barriers did not seem to be on their radar, so the newer and less complicated Plains was eventually turned into a SIAST training centre. At least it became useful again.
Now with a new-look health centre looming on the horizon in southern Regina ... a centre that will be used for cancer outpatient services, CT scans, diagnostic imaging and other services ... we wonder what the future holds for our regional service providers?
Now that Estevan's concerns regarding physician shortages are being addressed, the community has been casting its eyes toward providing more and varied health-care services.
There has been a continual appeal for a CT scanner for St. Joseph's Hospital ever since the ribbon was cut in 1992.
Will the new Plains signal the end of hope for a more complete imaging and diagnostic service in Estevan? Are our expectations of gaining regional hospital status being dashed with this announcement made in Regina?
If the partners had been willing, there is no good reason why a community such as Estevan could not have been established as a centre of excellence for such things as imaging, diagnostics, day surgeries and outpatient service for cancer patients, just as it has been dialysis treatments.
Keep in mind that a two-hour trip to Regina on our current highways, which are in a state of disrepair, is a painful one even for healthy bodies. Making a cancer, or any other fragile client, endure a four-hour round trip for less than an hour of outpatient service that could be provided locally doesn't make sense on any front. A two-hour round trip might, but four or more hours from any direction, does not.
It appears as if this is just the latest endeavour to centralize health-care services in our two major cities without giving much consideration to those who live outside that one-hour bureaucratic comfort zone.
The money, the capabilities, the desire, the space, and expertise is available outside Regina and Saskatoon. All that is lacking is the political will to make it happen.
So while we view the new Plains concept as a needed and welcome addition to provincial health-care service, we have to wonder ... at whose expense?
Where is Randy Weekes, our newly created minister of Rural and Remote Health Care standing on this issue and where, how and when is he going to weigh in on the topic? Is provision of rural health care simply defined as being in south Regina?
It appears from here this could be a hot topic to be debated right out of the gate between Duncan and Weekes as they struggle to define their separate roles.