Family physicians in Saskatoon have not been taking on new patients.
That’s according to the Saskatchewan Health Authority website, which says no clinics in the Saskatoon area are taking on new patients as of Sept. 12, adding that the list would be updated when that changes.
Shamarika Kane lost her family physician after they closed their business and went into hospital work.
The Saskatoon resident added that she’s been left looking for a family physician for quite some time.
“I’ve been checking up on that site fairly regularly. I’ve also phoned medi-clinics, I phone clinics, after three months to no avail have I been able to find a doctor,” said Kane.
She said there are no doors opening, and there’s no guidance about what to do next.
“It’s basically, you’re on your own,” she said.
“I have a really traumatic brain injury from a brain tumour, an aneurysm and brain surgeries. And so it has taken years to get well, and my family doctor has co-ordinated the specialists, and knows my condition, and has the history, and now I don’t have that.”
She said during her worst days she was completely incapacitated.
“I’m just nervous, because I don’t know, do I go into a clinic? Can they refer me to specialists, with my serious conditions? Do I go to emergency? I’m lost.”
Dr. Andries Muller, president of the Saskatchewan College of Family Physicians, said this is the result of a system that’s been under pressure for a while.
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“It’s been going on for a while, and it’s definitely worse since the COVID-19 pandemic, but it’s probably just the final straw that broke the camel’s back,” Muller said.
He said many patients have fallen through the cracks, and doctors have been trying to play catch-up.
“And because they weren’t seen during that time, some of their illnesses actually deteriorated, and so there’s more care needed for some of them.”
Muller added that some physicians retired during the pandemic as well.
“A lot of work, a lot of extra work, and fewer bodies to do it.”
He said these stresses are pouring into walk-in clinics and emergency rooms as well.
Dr. Adam Ogieglo, a family physician in Saskatoon, said he hasn’t taken on new patients for a very long time.
“If a new doctor joins and has an open practice, they will fill up basically immediately,” Ogieglo said.
He said this wasn’t a problem that developed overnight, adding that he was hearing about this in 2009 when he was a medical student.
He suggested the use of physician assistants, adding that not everything needs to be done by the family physician.
Ogieglo said investment in primary care is important, and that it can prevent more extreme health issues.
“Having access to a family physician has been shown time and time again to improve health outcomes.”
In a statement late Tuesday afternoon, the Saskatchewan Health Ministry says recruitment and retention of healthcare workers is a top priority, including an additional $3.5-million in this year’s budget.
“There are Human Health Resource challenges across the country that Saskatchewan is currently facing. While overall physician supply is increasing, there may be instances of local vacancies.” the ministry said.
“Work is underway to further identify program possibilities with post-secondary partners to ensure sector needs are met for additional training seats and the potential for new professions such as Physician Assistants.” the statement added.