Saskatchewan announces new payment structure for family doctors

The government expects this change to make it easier to recruit and retain family doctors in Saskatchewan.

As Saskatchewan continues to navigate a family doctor shortage — leaving many in the province on long wait lists, or without a family physician at all — the provincial government says it’s working on a new way to pay doctors.

Currently, family doctors in Saskatchewan are paid under a fee-for-service model, which means doctors’ payment is entirely dependent on the quantity of services they provide.

The province’s new plan will move to a “blended” model, giving doctors a base payment for each patient on their roster, adjusted by the patients’ age, gender and medical needs. But if a patient needs more than the “standard basket of services,” doctors will be paid an additional fee for the extra services.

The province says this new structure will help increase patients’ access to quality medical care, and lead to a better distribution of responsibilities among health-care providers.

The government also expects this will make it easier to recruit new family doctors to Saskatchewan and retain them once they’re established here.

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“We are excited to be pursuing a compensation model that supports family-led team-based care and a more sustainable health-care system in Saskatchewan,” Health Minister Paul Merriman said in a statement. “We take the concerns and needs of our patients and family physicians very seriously and look forward to seeing this work advance.”

Many family doctors in Saskatchewan have been calling for a change to the fee-for-service model for years, saying it puts undue stress on them because they have to worry about running a business and bringing in enough income every month.

Saskatchewan Medical Association President Dr. John Gjevre said this new model will be a welcome change.

“This is very positive news for patients and physicians,” Gjevre said in a statement. “Family physicians are reassured to know that the government has heard their concerns and is moving forward with solutions that demonstrate they are a willing partner in addressing the challenges in our health-care system.”

In the last 20 months, the government says it has recruited 72 family doctors and 106 specialists from outside the province.

The government also undertook a recruitment mission to the Philippines, and made hundreds of conditional job offers to registered nurses, continuing care assistants and medical laboratory assistants.

A few dozen of the health-care workers the government hired from the Philippines have now arrived in the province.

Since December, the province says the Saskatchewan Health Authority has also hired 186 nurses, and has made more than 100 conditional job offers to nursing students who will graduate this spring.

“As we continue to attract more internationally trained health-care workers to our province, we are also providing more opportunities for health-care professionals and graduates here at home,” Rural and Remote Health Minister Everett Hindley said in a statement.

To bring health-care workers into under-served rural and remote communities, the government is also offering between $30,000 and $50,000 in incentives, in exchange for three years of work in high-priority areas.

Since the incentive program launched in 2022, the government says it has approved 105 of these packages.

Starting last month, the government also more than quadrupled the Rural Physician Incentive Program, to encourage doctors to spend five-year terms working in rural and remote Saskatchewan.

This story was originally published in the Saskatoon StarPhoenixIt is republished under a Creative Commons license as part of the Local Journalism Initiative.

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