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Saskatchewan premier balks at 'premium' for BC surgeries

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall said today his government is opposed to paying a premium to have surgeries done in British Columbia.

“It's interesting B.C. would be saying that,” Wall said today in a scrum, a recording of which was provided to the Tyee. “Certainly that's not been part of the intent here.”

The Tyee reported Oct. 26 that Saskatchewan and B.C. are discussing the possibility of sending Saskatchewanians to B.C. for orthopaedic surgeries.

B.C. health minister Kevin Falcon last week said the initiative would be good for both provinces, reducing Saskatchewan's surgery wait list while bringing money into the B.C. system. The provinces were close to a memorandum of understanding that would have 400 surgeries done in B.C. on people from Saskatchewan, he said.

"The principle would be that we'd charge a premium for the service that would allow us to not only cover our costs but use the additional revenues to then allow British Columbians to get their procedures done sooner and quicker," he said.

But Wall said today he has no plans to pay a “premium” for B.C.'s help.

“This initiative is not about subsidizing anybody else's health care system,” he said. “It's about shorter wait times for Saskatchewan people. If right away other jurisdictions want to talk about that, clearly not . . . You know we didn't talk about premiums when I mentioned it to the premiers. We just talked about capacity.”

The scheme to sell surgeries in B.C. would be inequitable and expensive, said New Democratic Party health critic Adrian Dix. “I think it was bad for the people of B.C.,” he said. “I don't think it was a bright idea for the people of Saskatchewan either.”

B.C. surgeries should go first to people on the wait lists in B.C., and Saskatchewan should build its own capacity, he said. “The solutions in Saskatchewan and in B.C. are in reducing wait times in the public sector.”

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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