Bonk optimistic about local projects

Airport expansion, CT Scanner, OR utilization raised at Chamber meeting

May 5, 2022, 4:27 pm
Sierra D'Souza Butts, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Moosomin MLA Steven Bonk spoke about potential funding for ongoing projects in Moosomin at Tuesday’s Chamber Meeting. He spoke about the airport expansion, bringing a CT Scanner to Moosomin and allowing surgeons access to Moosomin’s operating room to make better use of the facility.

Moosomin MLA Steven Bonk was asked about several local projects at the Moosomin Chamber of Commerce meeting last week, and he said he is optimistic about all of them moving forward.

Three projects that came up at the meeting were the ongoing Moosomin Airport expansion project, the possibility of a CT Scanner for the Southeast Integrated Care Centre and the idea of bringing surgeons from Regina to make better use of the operating room at the Southeast Integrated Care Centre in Moosomin and allow those surgeons to get more OR time than they can get in the city.

On all three, Bonk said he and the provincial government will do their best to move the projects forward.

Airport expansion
Tyler Thorn asked about provincial funding for the expansion of Moosomin airport.

“The Moosomin airport has already received the maximum on the CAP grant (Community Airport Partnership) for a couple of years, and we can work on that again,” Bonk said.

“The other avenues for funding would be the Northern Airports and Infrastructure grant, but it doesn’t really fit Moosomin, we would have to change some of the parameters. The other funding would be the ICIP program, but that also doesn’t really fit the Moosomin airport.

“We are definitely working on different funding scenarios on how we can find a program that can actually fit the Moosomin airport, because we have to make sure we can fund it properly through the correct mechanism. We can’t just say yes we want to give you money for something, we have to find the right mechanism.

“We’re definitely, very actively looking at this, and I’ve spoken to the premier many times about this. This is something that we want to get done so we’re going to do our best to find the funding, we just have to make sure we do it the right way.

“There’s no line for it in this year’s budget, but I’m very optimistic that we’re going to find the right funding mechanism and it’s going to happen.”

Asked if he thought it could potentially happen within the current fiscal year, Bonk said “I certainly hope so. We would need to work on the parameters of one of the programs, and that’s not always easy because a lot of this is enshrined in legislation, and if it’s not in legislation, it’s in regulation. That can take 19 months just to get through the House. I know it seems like it takes a long time to get anything done, but I am so glad after being involved in government for a while that it does go through the steps it does, because there are so many checks and balances. There can be unintended consequences if changes are pushed through quickly. It’s very important to take a good hard look at everything and have sober second thought before proceeding. But we’re working hard on it, and I’m confident we’ll find the right way to get it done.”

Operating Room utilization
Moosomin Mayor Larry Tomlinson asked Bonk about needing more surgeons in the area, in order to use SEICC’s fully conditioned operating room to its full potential.

“Steven, you and I talked at SUMA about utilizing our operating room that sits idle for most of the time, when it’s fully equipped and we have recovery beds and everything else,” Tomlinson said. “We had a meeting with our doctors the other night, and they thought there could be surgeons that can come out,” said Tomlinson.

Bonk replied that bringing in more surgeons is a possibility in the near future.

“I spoke with the Rural and Remote Health Minister this morning, and I believe this is something that can happen sooner than later, which I’m very excited about,” said Bonk.

“I was about to ask what the plan is to bring more health care services to Moosomin so we’re not transporting people two hours for everything,” said Alyssa Jeannot. “I feel our hospital could house more specialty things if given the opportunity.”

“I agree with you 100 per cent on that,” said Bonk. “There’s no reason we can’t utilize our rural facilities more, especially Moosomin, which is a hub for this whole area, and you have some of the best doctors right here.”

Bonk was asked the next steps for greater utilization of the OR. “From what I understand so far, they need permission to have a few more nurses on staff, which is something the minister just told me over the phone that it would not be a problem to do.

“There’s a few requirements for OR—you need anesthesiologists, you need nurses who are specifically trained for OR as well, so they need those requirements, but it’s nothing that can’t be done.”

Tomlinson commented that anesthesiologists seem to be one of “the biggest hang ups rather than the surgeons and nurses.”

“Yes the nurses don’t seem to be the problem, which is so lucky because Saskatchewan is fighting health care issues everywhere in this constituency, and Moosomin is so lucky to have such a good pool of nurses.”

CT Scanner
Kevin Weedmark asked Bonk if there were any updates regarding a CT Scanner for Moosomin. Bonk said there is work being done on the file.

“Steven, where are things at with the CT Scanner for Moosomin? I know the doctors say between the longer runway at the airport, and a CT Scanner here it would save lives, because you would have the ability to diagnose stroke victims and transport them through the Air Ambulance,” said Weedmark.

“Don’t read anything into this, I can’t comment too much because there are some private commercial interests at play, so stay tuned. I can’t say too much, but there are discussions and a proposal is coming together and it’s moving ahead,” he said.

“It’s not a dead issue, there’s lots happening on that one.”
Councillor Murray Gray commented that SEICC is heading in the right direction.

“By taking small we steps can add to our hospital whether it be the pacemakers that we can work on at the hospital here now, the operating room, there’s the residents program that’s starting here, and there are so many other things that we can add,” said Gray.

“We can give them so many more reasons to level us up to the next level by taking baby steps and adding more things into the facility. Every little thing that you can help us add to our hospital can get us closer to that higher level of a district.”

“Thank you for saying baby steps because it’s so much easier to do it that way, instead of going to the ministers with a big list of asks,” Bonk said. “That works better, taking it one step at a time, and over time it makes a big difference.”

Wait times
Angie Turpie asked about wait times in Saskatchewan’s health care system.
“I know you mentioned there’s lots of things coming in for health care, and one thing you said was to get back to pre-pandemic wait times for surgery,” said Turpie.

“I believe that our health care system was struggling before the pandemic, is the goal to get to pre-pandemic, or to improve where we were before?”

Bonk responded that the government has a plan to catch up on the backlog by 2025. “We’ll definitely need to be ahead of where we were pre-pandemic if we could,” he said.

“If we do get to pre-pandemic levels then I don’t see any reason why we can’t increase the momentum and start reducing the wait times even more, compared to where we were pre-pandemic.

“We’re really focused and targeted on this. We’re making really good progress on it.”

Bringing in nurses
Bonk also mentioned a program that the government is working on, which focuses on bringing 300 nurse practitioners from the Philippines to the region, over the next couple of years.

“This is something I’m personally very proud of because I brought it up at our caucus retreat last summer,” Bonk said.

“I mentioned that if you look at the demographics and numbers we have, we just don’t have the people. I’m so glad we got ahead of this and that they kind of accepted my recommendation to get ahead and start this program.
“Now after Covid, everyone worldwide is trying to get more nurses.”

Kristjan Hebert asked Bonk about recognition of international credentials for professionals.

“How are we making out with the feds about fast tracking global education, because that’s one of the big issues of bringing workers in,” Hebert asked.
Bonk said the provincial government has a plan to expedite the process to recognize international credentials.

“The government of Saskatchewan will be introducing legislation to fast track the process, but a lot of that is actually completely out of the government’s control, because it’s certified by third party institutions, but we fund a lot of those institutions so we have a bit of a say. That’s a huge thing. There are so many people in Saskatchewan that are qualified for something they can’t practice because we don’t recognize their credentials.”

“If I can just add something about the CBA that you folks started here, this has really got the ear of the Saskatchewan government,” Bonk said.

“We’re watching it very closely because it could be a very good model for other communities in the province.

“The only thing I can say, is that if you have an ask for government, make sure it’s very specific, like here’s the problem, here’s what we’re proposing as a solution, this is how it would benefit one community or several communities, here’s what we need from you, here’s the program that we think we can make it work within, because we can’t create a new program for every problem. We have funding models that things have to fit within.

“We’re very interested in seeing how this progresses. We just want to make sure that the first one is a success, so congratulations to Moosomin on the CBA.