Some districts missing out despite more doctors
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.