Tuesday, December 8, 2009

New Saskatchewan agency to help recruit doctors

Probably a lot of doctors esepcially specialist like to go to larger cities with a more temperate climate than Saskatchewan. There has always been a problem with getting doctors to work in rural areas. No doubt Sask. will have to continue to rely on importing doctors from foreign countries. At least this agency is a step in the right direction even though as the NDP points out it does not solve the immediate shortage.

Agency aims to address Sask. doctor shortage
By Jenn Sharp, For The StarPhoenix
December 8, 2009 8:10 AM
The province is hopeful a new recruitment agency that begins its work in the spring will help address a shortage of physicians in Saskatchewan.

The agency is aimed at bringing more physicians to rural and urban Saskatchewan and keeping them in the province.

Plans for the agency were announced earlier this year. It has been allocated $1.5 million and will be led by a nine-member board. The board members will be selected from the Saskatchewan Medical Association (SMA), health regions, the University of Saskatchewan college of medicine, the Professional Association of Interns and Residents of Saskatchewan, the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities, the Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association and the provincial government.

"If there is one issue I hear more than anything else around the caucus table, . . . it's about the shortage of physicians," said Health Minister Don McMorris, who launched the agency at a press conference Monday.

He said the agency will be a one-stop contact point for physicians seeking to set up practice in Saskatchewan. It will improve co-ordination and communication among health regions, communities and University of Saskatchewan medical graduates. The agency will also reduce competition for doctors among health regions and communities, and provide recruitment expertise.

McMorris outlined the goals over the next four years for the agency and said one of the main issues is the annual turnover of physicians in Saskatchewan. The rate is between 12 and 13 per cent, and McMorris says the goal is to reduce that number to less than 10 per cent.

The agency also aims to increase the number of U of S medical students and residents who train outside Saskatoon by 25 per cent and increase the number of Canadian-trained doctors working in the province by 10 per cent.

Another goal is to increase the number of graduates establishing practices in Saskatchewan by 10 per cent.

"Initially, the agency will focus on retaining our U of S graduates so that the people of Saskatchewan benefit from the dollars spent training doctors here in this province. At the same time, we will promote Saskatchewan to physicians as a great place to live and work," said McMorris.

Dr. William Albritton, dean of the U of S college of medicine, feels the main reason graduates leave the province is because "they don't feel wanted here."

He says many graduates say they were never asked to stay in Saskatchewan.

The agency will increase the number of post-graduate and residency seats to retain graduates, he said.

Along with ensuring the province has enough doctors, more personal support for spouses and family is also needed, according to Dr. Martin Vogel, executive director of the SMA.

"The ability for you and your family to be happy is critical," he said. "Our goal has to be for Saskatchewan to become the preferred place to practise medicine in this country."

The biggest hurdle the program faces, according to McMorris, is a lack of "uniformity" among health regions and communities.

The NDP Opposition says the physician recruitment agency is a long-term solution that does not address the current needs of rural communities. Health critic Judy Junor says the Saskatchewan Party government has had two years to address the doctor shortage in the province and "hasn't done anything.

"There's a lot of announcements but no action."

Junor points to regions such as the Cypress Health Region, which will not have acute-care services during the Christmas holidays. These services will not be available at Maple Creek's hospital from Dec. 28 to Dec. 31, which Junor says is "alarming. . . . Waiting until the spring to launch this program is too late."

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