The Land of the Living Skies is having trouble keeping and attracting doctors.
Over the last five years, the number of active practitioners (GP) in the province has decreased from 955 to 900.
In that same timeframe, the number of licensed GPs has increased by 73.
However, though a GP is licensed, that does not mean they are actively seeing patients. An example would be Offical Opposition Leader Ryan Meili, who is currently a licensed GP but is not actively seeing patients.
The Government has also seen increased specialist physicians, something Meili notes is important, but you need more active general practitioners to take advantage of those specialists.
“Family doctors are the backbone of our medical system. You cannot have a functional specialist system without enough family doctors,” he said. “A drop in family doctors at a time when our population has grown when health needs have been greater when we are just coming through a pandemic, and now we are dealing with tons of spin-off effects of the failures to keep health services.”
“Having a shortage of family doctors is extremely problematic, and there is a real risk of a vicious cycle here,” he continued. “When you see doctors like Kevin Wasko, like Tobi Mithcell, publicly saying ‘I’ve had enough of a government that treats me badly, I’m leaving, how do we then say to new grads, stay. How do we say to doctors across the country, come and make a life in Saskatchewan, at a time when our best and brightest are saying I’ve had enough.”
Meili said that these doctors aren’t leaving for more money but because they feel neglected by the Government.
“People start to look elsewhere where they would see a government that actually wants to protect my patients, that cares about the work that I do, enough to keep people safe,” he said. “They start looking for greener pastures, and I don’t want other places to be greener pastures than Saskatchewan when it comes to healthcare.”
He added that it’s not just doctors; it’s every profession in the healthcare system.
“We are hearing more and more about people who are wondering if they can continue in nursing, in medicine, because of the complete disrespect that was shown to healthcare workers throughout the pandemic and a healthcare system that does not have the support of this government to fully give doctors and others on the frontlines the support and the respect they deserve and need to do their jobs.”
Premier Scott Moe said he doesn’t know why individual physicians are leaving this province but did acknowledge that Government needs to focus once again on healthcare.
“It is possible that the SHA (Saskatchewan Health Authority), the Ministry of Health, or the Government took our eye off the ball on what was working,” he stated. “I can ensure you that we have our eye looking back at that ball, and you are going to see some significant investments in the upcoming budget.”
Moe talked about some of the specific things they will be focusing on in the province’s upcoming budget.
“I think you will see significant investments, not only in frontline healthcare, you are going to see investments in training. Ensuring that we are providing opportunities for young Saskatchewan residents to choose a career in healthcare. Also looking very closely at some of the recruitment agencies that we have and some of the retention packages that we have had in hard to recruit areas.”
Moe said that he knows it has been a difficult two years for healthcare workers and they are looking to address their needs.
“What can the Government do to increase morale? To say we hear you, we understand the challenges that we’ve had, and we are going to make efforts to bring more nurses, we are going to make efforts to bring more physicians in our facilities, we are going to make sure that few rural facilities that have service disruptions.”
The Government of Saskatchewan is set to release its budget later this month.