Recently, a few doctors left a clinic in Prince Albert, sparking a number of concerns from citizens.
There could be many reasons why physicians leave the community, president of the local medical association Dr. Stan Oleksinski said.
“I didn’t know about those (physicians leaving),” Oleksinski said. “I don’t know if they are staying in the community or went elsewhere.”
Not long ago, two physicians left the South Hill Medical Clinic to follow their significant others who had jobs in other areas, Oleksinski said.
“One had a job in a different area of the province and the other in a different province,” Oleksinski said. “I know there have been physicians who have left specific clinics and joined new clinics or are forming new clinics so that is not necessarily leaving the community.”
Some of the other reasons physicians may leave are because of climate, sometimes for cultural reasons or for economic reasons.
“Those are probably the most common reasons they leave,” Oleksinski said.
With more doctors leaving Prince Albert clinics, residents of the city have many questions.
One of the biggest questions is who is going to replace the physicians leaving the city.
“The one thing about all of the clinics in Prince Albert is the (the health) region isn’t directly involved in recruitment for them,” communications director for the Prince Albert Parkland Health Region (PAPHR) Doug Dahl said. “They are independent businesses or entities.”
When it comes to recruitment, PAPHR recruits for the rural areas such as Spiritwood, Shellbrook and Big River, Oleksinski said.
“They don’t recruit for Prince Albert itself,” Oleksinski said.
Although the health region does not recruit for the city, Oleksinski said they would accept help from PAPHR.
“We wouldn’t necessarily be opposed to the Health Region do some recruiting on our behalf, because recruitment definitely is an expense proposition as well as time consuming, but at this time, there hasn’t been an arrangement with the clinics to recruit locally from Prince Albert,” Oleksinski said.
Dahl said the health region does help where they can, but not in the actual recruitment.
“We may provide some assistance, like posting the fact that they are looking for someone on our website and things like that,” Dahl said.
Recruitment for specialists, on the other hand, is done by the health region, both men said.
The other problem with a doctor shortage is newcomers to the community have a difficult time finding a family doctor.
“We have noticed a significant decline in the last few years on the number of physicians in Prince Albert taking new patients that we list on our website,” Dahl said. “We ask for regular updates from the clinics on which physicians are taking new patients and the numbers for Prince Albert have declined a lot in the last couple years.”
Right now, Dahl said, about half of the physicians listed on the PAPHR website as taking new patients are rural based.
“A number of the physicians in Prince Albert are taking new patients but they have some restrictions with the type of patients they take, like new expectant mothers,” Dahl said.
The restrictions make it even more difficult to find a doctor.
“In general, if you are taking new patients you can’t specify that you will only take certain ones, apart from prenatals which is different,” Oleksinski said. “Apart from that, if you are taking new patients, you are taking new patients. If you are not taking any but will only see prenatals, that is fine too.”
Other physicians, Oleksinski said, may not be listed as taking new patients, but might agree to see a relative or family member of a current patient.
“Each physician has their own case load of patients they can handle and yes, we could certainly use more physicians in our region,” Oleksinski said.
The doctor shortage is not necessarily in Prince Albert, but in the surrounding communities, Oleksinski explained.
“Part of this is not just for Prince Albert, part of this is because there is a shortage in rural Saskatchewan as well,” Oleksinski said. “When they can’t be seen there, the spill over is to come to the next centre, which is Prince Albert for a lot of patients.”
People in communities like Shellbrook, Spiritwood and Big River have doctor shortages and the patients are forced to come to the nearest city or town.
It is not only local communities, but also some a little further away who are forced to come to centres like Prince Albert to see a doctor.
“Nipawin has had problems, Melfort is relatively OK, but Tisdale has had shortages,” Oleksinski said. “Some of the communities around Melfort have had shortages so they have kind of got the spillover and get overloaded because they can’t handle the excess -- so again, it would come to Prince Albert.”
Other communities where people have travelled to Prince Albert to see a doctor are Wakaw and Rosthern.
“Because all the areas around Prince Albert have been short, then the spillover comes to Prince Albert,” Oleksinski said.
Since there is an overload of patients, doctors have full workloads, which makes it more difficult to take on new patients.
One trend that is becoming common is doctors demanding an interview with a patient before agreeing to take them on.
“You would have to ask those particular physicians why they are doing that,” Oleksinski said.
Since he has never had an interview process for his new patients, he is unsure why it is happening but did say each physician is different in how they accept new patients.
“Those who are accepting new patients, some may wish to do that and some don’t,” Oleksinski said. “It is certainly not required.”