Some dis­tricts miss­ing out de­spite more doc­tors

Regina Leader-Post - - FRONT PAGE - PAMELA COWAN

The num­ber of physi­cians prac­tis­ing in Saskatchewan has steadily climbed, but some com­mu­ni­ties con­tinue to feel the pain of a doc­tor short­age.

As of Septem­ber 2017, there were 2,510 physi­cians li­censed in Saskatchewan. That’s up from 2,282 doc­tors prac­tis­ing in the prov­ince the pre­vi­ous year.

In the span of a decade, there has been a 44 per cent in­crease of doc­tors or roughly 760 more doc­tors li­censed in the prov­ince be­tween 2007 and 2017, said James Winkel, spokesman for the Physi­cian Re­cruit­ment Agency of Saskatchewan.

That rep­re­sents a 36 per cent in­crease in fam­ily doc­tors and 55 per cent more spe­cial­ists.

In some cases, it’s a lot more dif­fi­cult to re­cruit fam­ily doc­tors, Winkel said. “The fam­ily medicine doc­tors that are avail­able have a lot of op­por­tu­ni­ties, not just in Saskatchewan and Canada, but world­wide,” he said.

Emer­gency medicine physi­cians are also hard to re­cruit. “There’s high de­mand — a lot like fam­ily docs, there’s a lot of choice,” he said. “They can go a lot of places so that’s one of the tougher ones. Anes­the­si­ol­ogy is one as well where we’re try­ing to find a sil­ver bul­let for.”

Acute in-pa­tient and emer­gency depart­ment ser­vices in Wolse­ley have been sus­pended since Sept. 1 be­cause of a lack of physi­cians.

The Saskatchewan Health Author­ity ex­pects emer­gency depart­ment ser­vices to re­sume in June when a can­di­date com­pletes the Saskatchewan In­ter­na­tional Physi­cian Prac­tice Assess­ment (SIPPA).

Un­less doc­tors are Royal College cer­ti­fied, they must go through SIPPA, which was im­ple­mented in 2001 to en­sure in­ter­na­tion­ally trained doc­tors wish­ing to prac­tise in the prov­ince have the ap­pro­pri­ate skills and knowl­edge.

The Physi­cian Re­cruit­ment Agency of Saskatchewan trav­els to the United King­dom in part­ner­ship with Bri­tish Columbia and Man­i­toba.

“We es­sen­tially form a united front from Western Canada,” Winkel said. “We have pretty good booth space at the pre­mière show­case for physi­cian re­cruit­ment in the U.K. which is the Bri­tish Med­i­cal Jour­nal ca­reers fair.”

The scope of prac­tice in ru­ral ar­eas ap­peals to over­seas GPs, he said.

“In­stead of just do­ing one or two things day af­ter day, they re­ally get a broad scope of prac­tice,” Winkel said. “In some ways, it’s dif­fi­cult to re­cruit those types of peo­ple be­cause they have a lot of choices, but that’s one of the things that makes it a lit­tle eas­ier.”

In the past three years, physi­cians from across Canada have come to the prov­ince.

“It’s word of mouth,” Winkel said. “The more physi­cians prac­tis­ing here, the more they talk to their col­leagues in places like On­tario. They ap­ply to SIPPA and if they get in, they’re al­lowed to prac­tise.”

As of March 2017, about 52.9 per cent of physi­cians prac­tis­ing in the prov­ince re­ceived their med­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion out­side of Canada. For fam­ily physi­cians, this num­ber is 65.5 per cent and for spe­cial­ists, it’s 38.3 per cent.

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