“It’s just very frustrating”
That was the reaction of Moose Jaw resident, Desiree Gadd, after being informed, that her physician was relocating to Regina, putting her back at square one and without a doctor.
Gadd was informed of her doctor's departure via a letter, stating effective Nov.15, she would be relocating to Regina and Gadd would have to find another family physician, as no one else would be taking over her patients.
The most frustrating aspect of the situation for Gadd is that she’s only had her current physician for just under a year, which took her two years to secure.
“Once a month for two years I called doctor’s offices hoping there was a doctor available to take me on until I found mine,” says Gadd.
The worry now is that she has to start from scratch yet again searching for a family physician that is accepting new patients or has the time to see her.
“There are certain conditions that I deal with that need a regular doctor and it’s just more effective to have someone on a regular basis now, then have to go through that whole process over again and who knows how long it will take before I find another doctor.”
Gadd suffers from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), which requires her to take medication that needs a prescription from a physician. As well, that ADHD medication is a controlled substance and requires a check-in with a doctor regularly.
“They have to keep an eye on it because it can be an addictive medication to make sure you’re not having troubles that way. There’s a lot of side effects that go with that medication such as high blood pressure and high pulse.”
She also suffers from various stomach-related issues and food sensitivities. Gadd is hoping to be referred to a specialist prior to her doctor's departure on Nov.15.
Gadd isn’t the only one in Moose Jaw or across the country that is finding it difficult to secure a family or personal physician. COVID-19 put a lot of pressure on the health care system within the province and across the country, forcing workers to leave the industry or move elsewhere.
When asked about why she thinks physicians are moving elsewhere from Moose Jaw, she gave a couple of reasons.
“I think they’re overworked No.1, there aren’t enough doctors for everyone to have a family doctor and they’re picking up all the walk-in patients and that’s a lot for them. I also think there are better opportunities outside of Moose Jaw for specific specialties.”
A 2020-21 Medical Services Branch Annual Statistical Report, showed a total of 36 General Practitioners in Moose Jaw, which is an increase of four from the previous year. Moose Jaw is a city of roughly 34,000 people – so, one general physician is responsible for roughly 944 patients, if every single resident has a family doctor.
In 2019, Statistics Canada reported that approximately 4.6 million Canadians did not have regular access to a primary care provider.
On Aug. 26, Discover Moose Jaw spoke with John Gjevre, President of the Saskatchewan Medical Association (SMA), about what they are doing to try and retain physicians within the province and places like Moose Jaw.
“We have bursaries for medical students to encourage them to stay in the province. We also have a retention program that provides a small financial bonus for people to stay in the province for the long haul,” says Gjevre in an interview with Discover Moose Jaw.
SMA has a Retention Fund that provides financial rewards to physicians who practice in the province for an extended period of time. They must live in Saskatchewan, hold licensure with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan, and provide insured clinical services in the province.
The association also offers a Family Medicine Residents Bursary. This is given to residents who agree to service rural, regional, or Northern Saskatchewan communities.
Saskatchewan is trying to do its part to try and retain and recruit family physicians to the province. In their 2022-23 budget, they have included an additional $3.5 million to expand and enhance recruiting and retainment-focused programs.
The Ministry of Health has expanded the medical residency seats through the University of Saskatchewan from 120 to 128.
Moose Jaw and Swift Current have been included as training sites for post-graduate medical residents, including family medicine. Through the Saskatchewan International Physician Practice Assessment, 257 additional doctors are currently providing service in the province.
A statement from the Ministry of Health mentioned that this year’s budget included the development of a new and independent agency dedicated to the recruitment and retention of health human resources, including physicians.