Saskatchewan doctors urge province to fund 24-hour 'safe consumption sites'

The Saskatchewan Medical association, made up of family doctors, are calling on the provincial government to fund 24-hour safe consumption sites to prevent rising drug overdoses and deaths.

Hannah Nightingale Washington DC

The Saskatchewan Medical association, made up of family doctors, are calling on the provincial government to fund 24-hour safe consumption sites to prevent rising drug overdoses and deaths.

The SMA’s Representative Assembly passed a resolution that asks the government to fund 24 hour access to safe consumption sites in Saskatchewan, according to the SMA.

"Physicians have seen overdose rates skyrocket in the last couple of years, and we’ve seen an enormous number of overdose deaths that we weren’t seeing before," said Dr. Carla Holinaty, a Saskatoon family physician. "We recognize we have an addiction and overdose crisis on our hands. The government also seems to recognize that the number of deaths from overdoses is astronomical. We should be using every tool at our disposal to try to decrease the loss of life."

As of June 2 of this year, the Saskatchewan Coroner Service has recorded 43 confirmed accidental drug toxicity deaths and 125 suspected drug toxicity deaths, according to Yahoo News.

In the city of Regina, there have been 648 drug overdoses, which resulted in 58 deaths, according to the Regina Police Service.

The coroners service estimated that 345 people in Saskatchewan died of drug overdoses last year, the most of any year during that decade.

"I think physicians have an obligation to keep pushing until we have systems in place to protect some of the most vulnerable members of our society. That’s our role as physicians and that should be our role as a society," said Dr. Holinaty, who presented both resolutions to the RAs and practices at the West Winds Primary Health Centre.

Holinaty added that evidence shows safe consumption sites save the lives of individuals.

While detoxification and recovery programs have been funded by the provincial government, Holinaty said that many overdose before making it into those programs.

"They’re not ready to go into those pathways yet. We still have an obligation to do our best to at the very least keep them alive," she continued.

In response, Saskatoon Community Clinic physicians have issued a fundraising challenge to Saskatchewan’s doctors. The physicians are asking others to donate $1,000 to Prairie Harm Reduction, Saskatchewan’s first safe consumption site.

The site currently doesn’t possess the funds to run 24 hours a day.

Executive director of the site Jason Mercredi has asked the provincial government for about $1.3 million to be able to expand to 24 hours a day, seven days a week, but was reportedly refused funding in the last two budgets, Yahoo News reports.

"This isn't Canadian health care and the way it should work. The fact that we're having to fundraise to stop people from dying is absolutely crazy," said Mercredi. "We're in this situation so we're making the best of it. We hope to have sufficient funding for safe consumption sites eventually. In the meantime, we are very glad that the medical community has decided to step up in such a major way so that we can expand hours and try to support people as best we can."


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