Estevan hospital wait times rise due to physician shortage

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Estevan hospital wait times rise due to physician shortage
WATCH ABOVE: Recruiting physicians in rural and remote locations in Saskatchewan can be challenging, and that especially holds in Estevan as residents grapple with a shortage of doctors. Marney Blunt reports – Jan 24, 2018

Residents in Estevan are voicing concerns over physician wait times, as the city is grappling with a doctor shortage.

“It makes it hard, definitely. Even just to get a prescription, having to go to the emergency room just to get a prescription is far from ideal if you ask me,” Estevan resident Nick Ginther said. “And then if you have a kid that’s sick [and] you can’t get an appointment, well that’s hard too.”

Since June, Estevan has lost four physicians. Currently, there are 10 doctors in the city — nine of which are seeing family patients. St. Joseph’s Hospital CEO Greg Hoffort said that number should be 14 or 15 ideally.

“We have lost a few key physicians that all had a significant amount of patients in our community,” Hoffort said.

“Two of them were departures with virtually no notice. One was a suspension from the [College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan] and another one left town to move home to South Africa almost overnight. That left an enormous amount of patients without a physician.”
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The shortage of family physicians in Estevan has increased the amount of non-emergency cases in the emergency room and increased wait times. Physicians also aren’t taking on any new patients.

Hoffort says to address the shortage, St. Joseph’s Hospital has stationed a family physician in the emergency room from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday. Normally, the emergency room is covered by family physicians on an emergency, call-in basis.

“There’s still wait times in (ER), and it’s certainly a less than ideal situation, we wouldn’t want to have this program running in our emergency room,” Hoffort said. “But to try and help the community during this short-term shortage, that’s what we’ve decided to do.”

The effects of the doctor shortage is also being felt at the Hill View Manor senior home in Estevan.

About 80 per cent of the home’s 42 residents receive care from a doctor who comes to the home every Wednesday. But for the other senior residents, doctor’s appointments are a struggle.

“It seems like they’ll just get a doctor, get settled in and then he moves on,” Hill View Manor nurse and administrator Eunice Massett said.

“They’re sitting in a doctor’s office for hours waiting for a doctor and [at] 90-years-old, 93-years-old, they’re immune compromised as it is and they’re sitting among all those germs and it’s harmful to them.”
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There is some light on the horizon, however. The hospital has recently recruited three new physicians — two are slated to arrive in March, and one will arrive April.

However both Massett and Ginther worry retainment is more of an issue than recruitment.

“I think it’s just hard to get them to stay in our community for whatever reason,” Ginther said.

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