June 15, 2024

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Financial support to be provided to Sask. families who need out of province care for children

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Sask. families who are required to travel outside of the province to access medical care for their children will receive financial support.

Health Minister Everett Hindley elaborated on the policy change while speaking with reporters on Wednesday.

“As a result of the meetings that we’ve had with families in consultation with health care providers, including the head of pediatrics here in Saskatchewan, we will be providing financial assistance for families that need to be referred out of province,” he said.

The financial supports will include up to $2,000 for families with children aged 16 and younger seeking out of province pediatric care.

“We’re still working on the criteria itself and working closely with the health care teams,” he continued. “This is the first time that we’ve done this.”

The reimbursement will include expenses related to transportation and accommodations and will go into effect retroactive to April 1, 2024.

Hindley said that children will need a referral from a specialist and the treatment cannot be offered in Saskatchewan in order for families to be eligible for the supports.

The announcement comes after a long list of families have visited the legislature in the past several months – most notably to highlight the lack of pediatric gastroenterologists in Saskatchewan.

The Weber family was one such case.

The family highlighted the financial hardships they’ve endured while travelling to Toronto so that 16-year-old Zach Engen could receive treatment for his eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE).

“This is one of the toughest years of our lives,” Zach’s mother, Alyssa Weber told reporters while visiting the legislature last month.

“We need help. We’re trying to do it financially by ourselves, but we can’t anymore.”

Hindley said the supports will help families deal with the pressures of seeking out of province care – while the government continues to fill vacancies at centres such as the Jim Pattison’s Children’s Hospital in Saskatoon.

“We’re going to work very hard to make sure that that is fully staffed and we can provide as many services as we can close to home for kids in Saskatchewan,” he added. “Recognizing of course that there are some very highly complicated and complex procedures that won’t be provided here.” 

Pediatric referrals now join breast cancer testing as the two instances where the government will cover out of province travel expenses. It’s an acknowledgment that a shortage of specialists is creating a financial burden for some Saskatchewan residents.

– With files from Wayne Mantyka 


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