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Hospital Crisis Averted

Pasqua Hospital faced an ER night-time closure
Pasqua Hospital faced an ER night-time closure

Yet ER doctor shortage continues to be a huge issue in Saskatchewan

Article: Alec Salloum – News Writer

The Pasqua Hospital has garnered significant attention recently in the wake of their Emergency Room facing night-time closure.  It was initially thought the ER would be closed for three months.  The looming closure was remedied on Nov. 28 with an agreement being reached between the Regina Qu’Appelle Health Region and ER doctors at the Pasqua Hospital.

The closure began as a response to a shortage of ER doctors.  Many of the doctors have reported being drastically overworked with no qualified relief for their positions.

In response to the night-time closure, the contingency plan was to forward all emergency cases to the General Hospital, who’s ER would handle all night-time calls.  If an emergency case were to show up at the Pasqua ER, paramedic teams would be waiting to transport the case to the General Hospital.

Negotiations came down to the wire as Thursday the 28th was the date that the ER would begin its night-time closure.

A press release on the day stated that, “following significant efforts by the Ministry of Health, senior management of the Regina Qu’Appelle Health Region (RQHR) and physicians, a solution has been found which will enable the Region to continue to provide full emergency coverage at both Regina Emergency Departments.”

Another release announced that the new agreement “is retroactive to April 2013 and effective until March 31, 2016.”

Despite the issue being resolved, it does bring to light how drastically the province needs physicians.  In a release, Tyler McMurchy, of the Ministry of Health, and Dallas Carpenter, from the Saskatchewan Medical Association, said “the government is working with the Saskatchewan Medical Association on a range of initiatives to recruit and retain physicians, and we are making progress.”

Such initiatives do already exist and have, to some extent, been a success.

“The overall number of physicians practicing in Saskatchewan has increased by more than 300 from March 2007 to March 2013,” claims the aforementioned release.

“This has been accomplished through initiatives like expansion of training seats, distributed education, rural practice incentive grants, and SIPPA.”

SIPPA, or the Saskatchewan International Physician Practice Assessment Program, was implemented on Jan. 1, 2011.  It seeks to better assess “family medicine family medicine International Medical Graduates’ (IMGs)” and their ability and aptitude in practicing medicine in Saskatchewan to the provincial code.

When gauging the success of SIPPA, one report showed that “in rural areas, 75 per cent of physicians were trained in other countries.”

Additionally, the University of Saskatchewan has been increasing its residency and undergraduate seats since 2009.

In addition to all these new efforts, there has also been an increase in salaries, no doubt a major point of contention.  Many doctors who are trained in Regina seek work elsewhere, namely Ontario and Alberta, simply because wages are higher there.

This especially applies to ER doctors.

To compensate for this, in the new agreement we will see a pay raise in the area of “12.5 per cent to 13.7 per cent” in the first year alone.  This will equate to full-time ER doctors earning from $320,000 to $400,000 annually.  Of course, the wage is dependent on skills, training and level of experience.

Hopefully these efforts by the Saskatchewan government will be enough to remedy the provinces shortage of doctors.

Image: Evan Radford

About Alec Salloum

I’ve been interested in writing for most of my life and am excited to be working at the Carillon. I love to cook, recently got into woodworking and am constantly reading something.