Sask. announces creation of breast health centre in Regina, expansion of screening eligibility

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The Saskatchewan government says it will create a breast health centre in Regina and expand screening eligibility to improve wait times in the province.

Health Minister Everett Hindley made the announcement on Tuesday. It comes after reporting highlighted a backlog of tests and months-long waits for screening, prompting the province to send patients to a clinic in Calgary.

“Our hope is that this update today will provide reassurance to patients about our level of commitments to health care in this province and to this issue in particular,” said Hindley.

The new centre will be located at Regina Centre Crossing on Albert St., and is slated to open during the 2024-2025 fiscal year.

It will operate similarly to an existing facility in Saskatoon, said Dr. Sarah Miller, a surgeon who provides breast care and was with Hindley during Tuesday’s announcement.

WATCH | Sask. announces new breast health centre in Regina: 

Sask. announces new breast health centre in Regina

The Saskatchewan government says it will create a breast health centre in Regina and expand screening eligibility to improve wait times in the province.

The health centre will house services including diagnostic imaging, consultation with specialists and surgeons, patient education, support and navigation, the province said. Family physicians and nurse practitioners will be able to refer patients to the breast health centre instead of having to co-ordinate referrals to multiple locations.

“Breast care is complex and these are not simple, straightforward fixes,” said Miller.

“Though the creation of a breast health centre is only one piece of a larger puzzle to ensuring a better patient experience and improving access to care, this represents a tremendous step forward.”

WATCH| Sask. breast cancer patient still waiting for surgeon consultation 5 months after finding lump:

Sask. breast cancer patient still waiting for surgeon consultation 5 months after finding lump

Lisa Vick, 48, is one of many women in Saskatchewan facing bottlenecks in the health-care system due to a shortage of radiologists and surgeons with breast specializations.

In Saskatchewan, breast cancer screening has been only open to women who are 50 years or older.

As part of Tuesday’s announcement, the province said screening eligibility will open to women who are 40 years or older starting in January 2025.

The move is being welcomed by Dense Breasts Canada, a non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness and advocating for breast cancer screening.

“This step will save lives by allowing earlier detection and treatment,” said Jennie Dale, the organization’s co-founder and executive director.

The expansion of eligibility will make Saskatchewan the eighth province committed to allowing screening at 40 years old, Dale said. 

She said she was told that once the changes go into effect, the Ministry of Health will send letters to remind women turning 40 that they can now receive a mammogram or other screening procedure.

It’s not clear what the cost of the announcements will be. Hindley said more details are coming as part of the provincial budget, which is set to be released later this month.

The Official Opposition said it has been calling for some of these changes for months. 

In a statement, NDP health critic Vicki Mowat said the government created the crisis and that she doesn’t have faith it will fix the problem. 

In November, Hindley confirmed that the average wait for breast cancer screenings was about 10 weeks. The goal is for the average wait time to be three weeks.

The province contracted Clearpoint — a private health company in Calgary — to offer 1,000 scans to eligible Saskatchewan patients on an urgent wait list.

That contract will run until March 2025.

On Tuesday, Hindley confirmed that 188 patients have been referred to Clearpoint, with 131 having already undergone diagnostic procedures.

The province also boosted capacity in Saskatoon and Moose Jaw to ensure patients from Regina and southern Saskatchewan were able to receive care.

Since November 2023, 150 patients who were waiting for a long period of time or needed urgent care were able to receive diagnostic procedures in Moose Jaw or Saskatoon, the province said.



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