The Saskatchewan government has paid out almost $2 million in severance packages to seven health region executives as the province moves towards amalgamation.
A severance package, or voluntary separation, was offered to all 12 of the current health region CEOs and 62 vice-presidents.
Minster of Health Jim Reiter said the total amount of severance paid was around $1.8 million.
“This was no sort of golden handshake,” said Reiter. “This was the amount they’d be entitled to by law anyway under contractual obligations or under common law.”
He added that this was not part of cuts to health care stemming from the provincial budget.
The health regions are submitting their budgets in June and many in the sector fear layoffs.
Reiter said the new, single health region will be more efficient than the current model, though specifics on how many people will be employed and what the organization will look like is still unknown.
“Right now we’ve got 12 CEOs and we’ve got 62 vice-presidents,” said Reiter. “That’s going to turn into one CEO and an undetermined number of vice-presidents, but certainly a fraction of 62.”
He said the number of vice-presidents would be in the single digits.
NDP worried about cuts to frontline services
NDP health critic Danielle Chartier said the government is using the amalgamation of the health regions as a distraction.
“This amalgamation is an opportunity for the government to say, ‘Hey, look over here. We’re doing something about our lousy record in health care’ and all the while cutting frontline services,” said Chartier.
A point of contention Chartier brought up was that the government had previously planned to cut the salary of health region executives and reallocate the funds to frontline services.
Chartier said the money paid out from current and future severance packages would be better suited to funding those services.