REGINA - Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall says his government will set a target that will ensure no one waits to receive emergency room care in his province.
Wall put out a lofty list of goals for the health system ahead of a meeting in British Columbia next week with his provincial and territorial colleagues.
Besides saying no one will have to wait for care in the ER, the list also says all people will have access to a specialist and diagnostics within one week and everyone will be connected to a care team that includes a family physician. It also says everyone will receive whatever surgery they need in less than three months.
Wall was not available for an interview Friday to talk about how those goals would be achieved or when.
"We all need to explore innovative approaches, to set bold targets, and to examine new ways of delivering health care for Canadians," he said in a news release.
"Targets and time frames are needed to change health care and ensure Canadians see real progress and improvements to health care issues that have faced our country for too long."
The premier has repeatedly used the word "innovation" in health care since December when federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty took provinces by surprise by handing them a set-in-stone formula for federal health transfers.
Flaherty said Ottawa plans to continue increasing health-transfer payments at six per cent annually for the next six years. Then the plan is for transfer payments to be tied to the rate of economic growth and inflation, which would give the provinces and territories certain and stable health funding.
Wall has said that's "not unreasonable" — a position that puts him at odds with premiers who are protesting Flaherty's changes.
While eastern provinces want to fight back and are demanding talks on funding and national standards, some of the western provinces are content with funding levels and are happy to take standards into their own hands.
"When I go to Victoria, I won't have an alliance with any other province. My alliance will be with the people of the province of Saskatchewan. I work for them," Wall told reporters Thursday after another health announcement.
"That's why we're going to be going there to talk about better health care, not just wrangle over dollars."
Saskatchewan will be pushing for Ottawa to pony up money for a so-called Innovation Fund. The province says that would allow for federal-provincial partnerships targeted at specific improvements.
Wall said Saskatchewan has looked at other countries in which patients wait one week only to see a specialist and obtain diagnostic tests, as well as emergency rooms where patients don't wait for care.
Saskatchewan already uses private facilities for some day surgeries as it tries to meet its promise that no one will wait more than three months for surgery by 2014. Wall said in the news release that expanding on the successes with private delivery in Saskatchewan's surgical initiative, further expansion of private sector involvement in the health system will occur.
"Our priority has to be innovation in health-care delivery and sustainability in order to ensure our coveted health system is available for all Canadians into the future," he said.