We asked Dr. Jeffrey Wilkinson about what the difference is between a private clinic and one that operates in the public system.

 “As a private clinic, we provide services to clients that are outside of the public Medicare program. This allows us to provide a level of service that exceeds our clients’ expectations. We believe there are a number of advantages — namely that you can see a Canadian-trained Cardiologist just by calling the office and we have a short wait time.”

They are a full-service cardiology clinic providing patient consultations and all cardiac investigations including imaging of the heart (echocardiogram) and ECG (electrocardiogram). They also perform blood pressure and heart rate monitoring as well as in-office stress tests.  Many, if not all, appointments can be booked on the same day which is really convenient.

Does being a private clinic allow patients to move through the system quicker to address any issues they are having with their heart?

“Absolutely. There are many inherent delays in the public system. For example, usually a patient needs to first see a family doctor or nurse practitioner who decides if they warrant seeing a specialist. Then a request needs to be sent, which the specialist reviews and then you wait for an appointment. There are many inherent delays. We've simplified the process -- if you think you need to see a Cardiologist just call our office and we'll see you within one to two weeks. Patients are also able to book all of their tests, sometimes even on the same day, similar to if you went to the Mayo Clinic for instance. It’s so simple - there is no delay. Clients just call our office, they get all of the appointments booked on the same day and they get results immediately.”

If something is identified as needing attention outside of South Saskatchewan Heart Clinics’ purview, what happens next?

“In that situation, we are still able to refer patients on to other providers in the public Medicare program. Patient still hold public insurance so they are entitled to those services outside our clinic.  For instance, if there is more advanced imaging that needs to be done or if a surgical procedure needs to be done — we are able to refer those patients onto the public system to get the issue dealt with. The benefit of our clinic is that patients can have their issue identified quickly and then get moved on into the public system faster, which we believe is a big advantage. We don't want our patients to have to wait for months for a specialist to get back to them. There is no need to wait and worry anymore. We want them to be able to have their investigations done and have a conversation about those tests and get moved on to where they need to be.”

Now, one thing that is different when visiting a private clinic versus a public clinic is how the billing works.

“Our clinic has opted-out from the provincial Medicare program, which means that we don't submit bills to the government any longer. This is something that doctors have always been able to do and is in provincial legislation and has been allowed since 1962. At our clinic, patients can use out of pocket payments to access the services they need. Some patients may also be covered by third party health insurance. Going forward, patients should really consider having health insurance for private medical services if that's something that they anticipate needing in the future.”

We talked to Dr Wilkinson about people who weren't accessing private services here in Saskatchewan, they were going abroad, maybe to the Mayo Clinic, and the advantage of not having to travel for some of these procedures.

“You're right, patients have been traveling, predominantly to the United States, for healthcare for decades! This has been a common practice and it's a burden for patients to have to book travel to Minnesota, for instance, or elsewhere, and the cost of staying in those places can sometimes be expensive. Plus the cost of the procedures can be prohibitive as well. So, this is an option for patients that want to stay in the province and be seen by a licensed specialist. And frankly, the rates at our clinic are going to be dramatically lower compared to going to the United States. This is really opening up something for many many more patients to access. Health care dollars should be staying in the province — paying good salaries to our own nurses, technologists, and administrators here in Saskatchewan.”

The South Saskatchewan Heart Clinic has a big focus on preventative healthcare.  They believe it is very important to identify risk factors for having a heart attack or stroke before they occur.   Blood pressure, cholesterol management and lifestyle modifications are all critical to preventing an issue in the first place.

To find out more, you can contact South Saskatchewan Heart Clinic by calling their office 306-694-2040, or find out more online at https://saskheart.ca/