Dr. Wessell Roets says a visit by Saskatchewan Health Minister Jim Reiter on Monday went well.
"He wanted to hear some of our concerns, so we brought up issues like sustainability of the practice, recruitment issues, and the format under which the practice will continue under the new health region structure. We hope we don’t encounter the same problems we did previously, under the previous health region," says Roets.
"Since the changeover from Pipestone to Regina-Qu’Appelle Health Region—and I wasn’t here for that—it impacted the practice quite a bit."
"The concern from our side is that with one big health region, we are so far on the periphery and far from direct communication."
Roets said the doctors are happy with the new arrangement through which local municipalities own the building the Family Practice Centre operates in. “I think it’s working out excellent,” he said. "This is a long-overdue situation. With their involvement, it will help make this practice sustainable for the future, because it brings stability."
What are the biggest issues that face a rural medical practice? “The biggest thing is the amount of on-call,” says Roets. “It affects clinics, and it affects your daily routine and health. If you don’t sleep at night, you have to recuperate the next day. At the moment we’re okay, but the moment you lose personnel, the pressure mounts, and you fatigue eventually, especially with the vast area that we serve. We have over 10,000 active patient folders.
“I was on call last night, and I was up at 12 o’clock and up at 4 o’clock. That’s standard.”
There are currently five partners and four associates at the Family Practice Centre—nine physicians altogether. One additional physician may be joining the practice in September.
“We’re always recruiting,” says Roets. “Dr. Kerkhoff and Dr. Van der Merwe are specifically looking out for Canadian-trained doctors who are willing to come this way. We can still use more doctors. The pressure’s still on. There are still people who can’t get into Open Access. There are still people who have to wait an extra day, and there are still people who call and are told they can’t get in within a week.”
Additional pressure comes when neighboring facilities close temporarily, sending more patients in Moosomin’s direction.
“There’s notice that Virden may be closed again,” Roets said. “Those days, people get in their cars and they come to Moosomin.”
Roets said he felt that the health minister listened to the doctors’ concerns.
“The attitude from the minister is positive,” he said. “Like he said, it’s a chance in a lifetime with the change coming in health care, there are lots of changes coming, and hopefully we can get it right. The minister listened to us on what a rural practice should look like.”
Mayor happy with meeting
Moosomin mayor Larry Tomlinson agreed that the meeting went well.
“I think it went very well,” he said. “He listened to what we had to say. We told him what we’ve done in the community, how we’ve tried to help with doctor recruitment and that we’ve purchased the clinic.”
The mayor said a number of concerns were raised.
“One issue is the designation of the lab techs and the x-ray,” he said. “If someone has blood work here, and they go to Regina they have to have their blood work done over again, and yet they’re on the same system. All they’re doing is doubling the work. It just doesn’t make any sense.”
Tomlinson said he hopes the health minister took some ideas home with him from Moosomin, such as replicating the Moosomin Family Practice Centre’s model.
“We’re hoping that some of the things we have done here could work in other places,” he said. “Hopefully they will take some of the ideas here and maybe they could work in other places.”