Emergency services were unavailable at the Southeast Integrated Care Centre in Moosomin last week due to the lack of a doctor to cover the ER.
According to the Regina Qu’Appelle Health Region, a doctor was scheduled to cover the ER in Moosomin, but when that doctor became unavailable, the emergency room had to be closed.
That meant that anyone having an emergency would be taken to the nearest acute care facility—be it in Broadview, Yorkton, Kipling, Brandon or Regina.
“Emergency services are temporarily unavailable at the Southeast Integrated Care Centre due to limited physician availability,” said Terry Huber last week, the Director of Rural and Primary Health Care for Moosomin and Whitewood.
“There was a physician that was scheduled and then something came up for them and they were unavailable.
“We apologize for the inconvenience to the community and to people. We’re working towards reestablishing those services and they should be reestablished on May 16 at 8 a.m.”
The emergency room in Moosomin was on 24-hour bypass from Monday, May 11 at 8 a.m. and was due to be available again on Friday, May 16 at 8 a.m.
Huber said having no emergency services in Moosomin is not a situation the RQHR wants to be in.
“I know it’s always an ongoing process and we want that reliability of physician coverage,” he said. “We are continuing to work on making sure physician availability is in place.
“We want normal operations at all times. We don’t want to be in this position and we want to provide the best care possible to people at all times—that’s our goal. All our team and everyone at the South East Integrated Care centre work hard to do that.”
In the past, emergency services at the hospital were covered 24 hours a day by the physicians at the Moosomin Family Practice Centre. Since losing one full time doctor, duties have been split at the hospital with the RQHR covering emergency services some of the time starting in December.
For about two months, the RQHR has been covering emergency services seven days a week. As of last week the Moosomin Family Practice Centre started covering the ER again on weekends. The MFPC continues to cover all inpatients, long-term-care patients, and obstetric patients.
Currently, from Monday to Friday, the ER is covered by the Regina Qu’Appelle Health Region, as is the open access clinic, which has been moved to the hospital and is covered by a nurse practitioner.
Maggie Petrychyn, the Executive Director of Rural Primary Health Care Services with RQHR, said the health region is trying to ensure that the ER being closed in Moosomin is not a common occurrence.
“We are trying really hard to ensure we don’t have this happen,” she said.
The group of doctors who are covering the ER in Moosomin come from a number of locations. Petrychyn says some have their own family practices in Regina, some are locums, some work in emergency services, and some are doctors from surrounding communities.
She says the health region is trying to schedule doctors for the ER in Moosomin well ahead of time.
“We are trying to schedule now until the middle of July. We’ve actually extended our search for locums. We are trying to see if there are other locums available throughout the province to assist us.”
Petrychyn said when a doctor can not show up to cover the ER, it is often hard to find someone at the last minute.
“We do try to see if there is another physician available but that is very challenging,” she said. “They are not always able to change their schedules at the last minute.”
The World-Spectator asked Petrychyn what would happen in the case of a major emergency with multiple traumas, such as a car accident, if there were no time to take the patients to another facility.
“I think if there were something major like that we would definitely see who’s available and who’s able to come,” she said. “We would try to have all hands on deck.
“We would try to find all the resources that we possibly could.”
Dr. Ross Kerkhoff, with the Moosomin Family Practice Centre, says splitting duties at the SEICC is necessary in order for the four full-time and two part-time doctors in Moosomin to cover their inpatients and all of their clinics.
A few months ago, the MFPC announced it would no longer be holding satellite clinics in the town of Wawota, and Kerkhoff says that they have also cut back on the number of satellite clinics in Rocanville, Maryfield and Whitewood as well, although clinics are still being held in those towns.
“With our shortage we’ve been working with the region to try and keep everything running smoothly and efficiently and keep the ER open 24-7,” he said. “And with that, the region currently is managing the ER during the week and providing coverage. The physician they had organized to come out on call was not able to attend at the last minute. And that’s basically why they went on bypass.”
Kerkhoff said that, when they had enough full time doctors in the past, the MFPC managed to cover the ER 24-7.
“We just covered and covered and covered. Even since the new hospital has been opened and all the other surrounding hospitals closed—there have been five hospitals in our vicinity that have either closed or had reduced services and this is the first time we’re in this situation—we’ve always just covered. And people have come to our ER.
“This (arrangement for RQHR to provide physician coverage during the week) is a temporary plan to get us through the summer.”
Kerkhoff said that the MFPC is still working with the health region to find new doctors for Moosomin through the SIPPA program. The Saskatchewan International Physician Practice Assessment program allows international medical graduates to practice medicine in Saskatchewan, providing that they are accepted.
Kerkhoff said there were plans for two doctors applying under SIPPA to visit Moosomin this week with the hopes of having two new doctors in place by September or October if the applicants are accepted.
He said there are other signs of hope for providing more consistent health care in the area.
“The Arcola doctors are planning to do some itinerant sessions in Wawota and I believe Virden hospital is going to be open all days of the week now and not just on weekends. And there’s hope that Redvers will be open in September too. These are all positive things in our area.”