03/04/2014 06:00 EST | Updated 05/04/2014 05:59 EDT

Health minister says sterilization problem at Regina hospital still a mystery

REGINA - Saskatchewan Health Minister Dustin Duncan says delaying surgeries more than a week at a Regina hospital could affect the government's promise that patients have operations within three months.

Last week, all surgeries were cancelled for 10 days at the Pasqua Hospital because a discolouration showed up on the wrapping for surgical tools put through a steam sterilizer.

Health Minister Dustin Duncan said a solution needs to be found soon.

"One of my concerns has been how many surgeries can we absorb within the health region or even in other health regions to the point where it would not impact the targets that the region has set," Duncan said Tuesday at the legislature.

"Obviously urgent surgeries and emergency surgeries are the priority and that continues."

The government promised in 2010 to shorten wait times for surgery to no longer than 12 weeks by March 2014. The Regina Qu'Appelle Health Region already said in January that it will need another year to meet that goal.

Then the issue with the sterilization equipment came up.

"A week doesn't really push the region back in terms of that 2015 day deadline. But when they're starting to look 10 days and beyond, now that's starting to impact that and so if we don't get a solution quickly, we'll be looking to see what the alternatives would be."

Duncan said the health region has been trying to find what's causing the discolouration.

He says the region change a filter in the machine and looked at whether the water used to create the steam was hot enough. They're also looking at the chemicals in the sterilization process.

"But to this point, it's a bit of a mystery as to why it's happening," he said.

Some surgeries were moved to Regina General Hospital, but more than 100 surgeries and nearly two dozen other procedures have been postponed at the Pasqua.