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NDP says documents show health care impact ignored in STC shutdown
The Canadian Press
Published Wednesday, November 1, 2017 4:07PM CST
Last Updated Wednesday, November 1, 2017 6:12PM CST
Government documents show health officials in Saskatchewan raised questions about shutting down the provincial bus company, saying it had been used "almost exclusively" to ship chemotherapy drugs and blood to hospitals across the province.
"These products cannot be shipped by Central Services couriers as they cannot provide the same timeliness and temperature protection," according to a section of the documents under the headline of the Saskatchewan Disease Control Laboratory.
Under the heading of cancer care, the documents say almost $18,000 is spent on Saskatchewan Transportation Company for shipping drugs and other supplies.
"Courier services would cost more, but these costs have yet to be determined," it stated.
The documents were obtained by the Opposition NDP through a freedom of information request and made public Wednesday at the legislature in Regina.
New Democrat Danielle Chartier says the information shows the government and Health Minister Jim Reiter ignored the vital role the bus company played in health care when it announced in the March budget that the service would end.
"We know that he didn't know the impact because a high level official in his ministry two days after the budget, said in an email 'Does anyone know what the impact of the STC cut is?,"' said Chartier.
"The FOI illustrates very clearly that they didn't know the impact of this decision. I think if you're making a decision in government, that you should know what the impact of that decision is."
The government shut down the 70-year-old STC at the end of May as part of an effort to tackle a $1.3-billion provincial deficit in the last fiscal year.
STC reported a net loss of $13 million in the 2015-2016 fiscal year and the government said it would have cost $85 million to keep STC running for the next five years.
The health minister denied the suggestion that he didn't know about the effects before the budget.
Reiter said it will take a little bit of effort to make sure that couriers provide the services that STC did.
"I would say that certainly there's going to be some inconvenience for people because there's going to be some gaps that need to be filled, routes that have been run by STC," said Reiter.
Reiter said the Saskatchewan Disease Control Laboratory had only been using STC since 2016. Before that time it used private couriers, "so certainly we believe they can move back to private couriers and they have and they will," he said.
He also noted that STC wasn't going to about half of the communities in Saskatchewan and communities still got medical supplies.
"I just fundamentally disagree with this approach that they have, that somehow because a province doesn't own a bus company, that it has a detrimental effect on health care," said Reiter.
"No other province owns a bus company ... other provinces get medical supplies around their province and people get to medical appointments."