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'We need help': Rural Sask. communities demand more healthcare support

The Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities (SARM) is calling on the provincial government to act on what it says is a lack of rural healthcare support, job retention, recruitment, and operating facilities.

SARM president Ray Orb spoke with CTV News and said he has been hearing a lot of complaints from rural municipal members, reeves, councillors, administrators, and their families.

“Our rural healthcare delivery in our province isn’t just good enough, and we need to step that up. We need the provincial government to pay a lot of attention to us, a lot more than they are now,” he said.

He said they are seeking legitimate solutions to keep young people in rural areas.

“We have a lot of youth out in the area, in rural areas, and we want those young people to get some training, post-secondary education as a way to attract young people as well, to keep them in our rural communities,” he said. “Just to be able to focus on things like career training and maybe even things on the curriculum.”

“The more young people we keep, the more likely they’re going to enter the health care field, and that’s what we need more of in the rural areas.”

Orb said he knows there are recruitment efforts underway but people are concerned they haven’t seen any results from that yet.

“That’s something also that concerns our members, when they go to a local hospital out in the rural area, sometimes the emergency centres are closed, and that’s putting a lot of duress on our rural people and it’s something that we want the province to rectify,” he said.

“There are a lot of issues that we’re facing out there right now that we need help.”

Orb said he is hoping to speak with ministers on what can be done to improve the status of healthcare in rural communities.

“We’re going to be consulting with our rural members too, we’re going to be asking the councillors, reeves, and administrators, and the local residents in the RM’s to have input into this as well so we get feedback so we know exactly what we need to target,” he said.

When speaking to media on Feb. 21, Health Minster Paul Merriman said he reached out to Orb to be able to discuss some of the concerns SARM has.

He said while there are disruptions in rural Saskatchewan, they have made some strides forward in the last six months, as they reopened some facilities that were disrupted during COVID-19.

“We’ve been able to make some huge strides forward in opening up some rural ERs, but also getting some complementary staff. We just had last week, three Filipino nurses that had arrived in Regina and went out to western Saskatchewan, into Swift Current, Eastend areas, where we had some gaps. So those are starting to happen,” he said.

“We’re going to sit down and work with SARM so they’re aware of what is going on and how we can work together.”

-With files from CTV Regina’s Morning Live Top Stories

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