December 19, 2003
In a move aimed at cutting costs, one of two clinics for multiple sclerosis patients in Saskatchewan will close early next year.
The Regina Qu'Appelle health region also plans to merge some nursing units at the Pasqua and General hospitals and temporarily close 45 hospital beds in city and rural facilities.
"This implementation plan is focused on containing costs and meeting service delivery targets established by the Department of Health," health region manager Bruce Stremel wrote in a memo to the Saskatchewan Union of Nurses, which represents the affected staff.
Stremel said the multiple sclerosis clinic will close within 90 days.
"This clinic is without formal medical leadership and is currently under review," he wrote. "As no timely resolution is expected, it is necessary to close."
The only other MS clinic in the province is located in Saskatoon.
The Saskatchewan division of the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada said it was surprised and disappointed.
"We were hoping the South Saskatchewan MS Clinic would have the opportunity to grow and to expand its services to benefit more people in southern Saskatchewan," board president Barry Wood said in a prepared statement. "Saskatchewan has one of the highest incidences of multiple sclerosis in the world, and we believe that more support, not less, should be forthcoming."
Multiple sclerosis is a neurological disease with no clearly understood cause or cure. Symptoms can include vision problems, fatigue, numbness, speech problems and difficulty walking.
The Opposition Saskatchewan Party denounced the closures, accusing the governing NDP of hiding their real intentions during the recent provincial election campaign.
"Now that they've been caught, the NDP is trying to explain away the bed closures by calling them 'temporary' and 'seasonal,' " said health critic Ken Krawetz. "But the Regina health region is saying beds are being closed to save money at the direction of the government."
He said the clinic closure will leave a gaping hole in service to MS patients.
"We understand that there are about 3,000 people in the province of
Saskatchewan that suffer from MS," he said. "What will result is that 1,500,
if we look at sort of a north-south split, will now have to funnel their
requests and their needs into Saskatoon."
Copyright © 2003, Canadian Press