Saskatoon doctor says province’s health-care system failed her patient

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WATCH: A Saskatoon family doctor says the Saskatchewan Health Authority's referral system is preventing at least one patient from getting the help they need – Mar 1, 2021

Doctor Marlys Misfeldt says the Saskatchewan health-care system failed her patient.

The Saskatoon family physician sent a patient to the Saskatchewan Health Authority’s (SHA) pooled referral system for further treatment for their mental health. On Thursday she received a letter stating the referral had been cancelled.

The letter, which Misfeldt sent to Global News, said, “the specialist has decided that the referral is not required and has cancelled this referral.”

Read more: New mental health unit in Saskatoon good first step but not enough, advocates say

“The system is broken if someone can just write to me and say ‘your (patient) is not going to be seen,’” she said.

Speaking over Zoom, she told Global News no explanation was provided and there was “no discussion with the patient, no discussion with me, no information on the letter… it’s been deemed that this is not required.”

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Misfeldt said she began seeing her patient roughly a year and a half ago for severe anxiety and depression. She has prescribed several different medications and mixtures thereof but said they weren’t seeing the results they wanted.

“He’s not getting better,” she explained.

“He was improving somewhat, but I could not get him back to near 100 per cent.”

She referred the patient into the SHA’s pooled referral system for more specialized care. Essentially, she submitted the patient’s name to a database designed to direct them towards the psychiatrist with the shortest wait time.

She told Global News she’s used the system to send other patients to different services, like cardiology, and never had someone rejected.

But she also said this isn’t the first time she’s referred someone for psychiatric care only to have the request cancelled.

Read more: Virtual mental health consultations on the rise in Saskatchewan

In December 2019 she referred a patient who was threatening suicide.

She said they’re still waiting to see someone other than her.

She doesn’t expect the patient to get any help at this point.

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“I think that they’ve lost (them) in space now,” she said.

“He’s not going to be contacted now, I’m sure, because it’s a year and two months later.”

The problem, according to Misfeldt, is that there aren’t enough psychiatrists in Saskatchewan.

There are other options for patients but Misfeldt said those aren’t as effective or are designed for short-term treatment. Only a handful of psychiatrists have private practices outside of the hospital system and Misfeldt said they usually aren’t able to take on more patients.

The SHA does have some response teams, but Misfeldt said her patients haven’t always heard back from them.

Read more: Saskatchewan advocates, experts expect spike in mental health calls over holidays

The patient who threatened self-harm in Dec. 2019 told her in March 2020 they hadn’t yet heard from a rapid access team.

The rejection, this time, was one too many.

Misfeldt sent letters to Premier Scott Moe and health minister Paul Merriman, writing, “I have had a young woman kill herself while trying to get her in to see a psychiatrist.”

That happened several years ago, before the before the province installed the pooled referral system, Misfeldt clarified. But the point is the same: delays can be deadly.

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Moe, Merriman and the SHA did not respond to requests for comment by deadline.

Misfeldt said she will continue to work with her patients.

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