Dealing with change
Saskatchewan’s doctors uneasy about provincial, national changes to the way they operate
Physicians in the province are facing a lot of uncertainty heading into contract negotiations as the health system reorganizes and the federal government enacts tax changes.
That’s what the Saskatchewan Medical Association (SMA) has been hearing as it travels across the province meeting with area doctors. Wednesday night the SMA president’s and vice president’s tour stopped in Prince Albert to hear what local doctors have to say. Before going to meet with the doctors, SMA president and Prince Albert obstetrician Joanne Sivertson spoke with reporters about how the tour is going to this point.
‘We go around to all the regions in the province and meet with our members. We’re a member-based organization and the best way for us to know if we’re doing what our members need us to do is to meet with them on their turf,” Sivertson explained.
“There’s a lot of uncertainty right now with physicians in the province. We’re amalgamating into a single health region, and physicians are interested to know how that’s going to affect them and their ability to provide patient chair. We’re also … in the middle of negotiations with the ministry right now, and (there are) changes to the corporate tax structures proposed by the federal government. Physicians in general are uncertain how all of these changes are going to affect them in the long run.”
Sivertson said the provincial government provides updates on a weekly basis as to the process of amalgamating 12 health regions into one. Doctors, she said, are mostly concerned about whether they will be able to adequately treat their local patients.
“They’ve seen it done in neighbouring provinces, and there have been bumps along the road and some struggles,” Sivertson explained.
“Physicians want to make sure they can continue to practice optimal care and be able to provide care close to home for their patients. They don’t want to see everything centralized to the major centre in the province. They’re mostly worried about making sure their patients aren’t affected by the changes that are going down.”
Sivertson is relatively new to the role of SMA president. She was voted in by her peers back in May. It’s been a busy time as she seeks to fulfill her role with the SMA while also maintaining her practice back in P.A.
“I have been really delighted with the feedback that I’ve been getting from my colleagues. People have been extremely encouraging and positive,” she said.
“What we’re hearing is they feel like the SMA is on the right track for the most part. We’ve been getting really good feedback on the various initiatives that we’ve been trying to undertake.”
Sivertson said there are always things to be improved upon and it’s impossible to please anyone. But as long as the majority of members are happy, she feels like she is fulfilling her mandate. For now, she is travelling to all of the province’s health regions to meet with doctors there.
As the province shifts the structure of the health system, the SMA is also considering changes. Those changes will be considered at the fall representative assembly, and be tied to the strategic plan the organization is working on. Of course, the uncertain environment doesn’t make building that strategic plan any easier.
“We’re definitely working win an ever-fluctuating environment at this moment,” she said.
“We think this is a good opportunity to try to make sure that whatever we design for the next three to five years will be flexible and be in line with whatever changes are coming our way.”
SMA president Joanne Sivertson met with area doctors Wednesday