According to the Government of Saskatchewan, almost 900 doctors have been added to the province over the last 11 years, which is an increase of 51%. However, in Estevan, we are still dealing with a doctor shortage.
"The province has started several initiatives to recruit physicians to Saskatchewan in the past few years," explained Greg Hoffart, Executive Director at the St Joesph's Hospital, "all of which are appreciated. One of the foremost ones is the Physician Recruitment Agency of Saskatchewan. And while we have benefited greatly from that in terms of bringing new physicians to Estevan through that process, one of our struggles is retention."
"Though the physicians, even the ones who've left have provided a valuable service to our community for three, four, five years, retention does seem to be a problem."
"Having said that, we have several physicians in Estevan right now who have been here for a great deal of time and were recruited through that process. So we've definitely benefitted from that process but there is certainly more work to be done."
"Presently we are still actively recruiting physicians. We have three set to arrive throughout the month of May. We have another set to arrive in October, or in that area. All of them are pending licences from the College which can be a time-consuming process."
As well, the hospital is looking farther into the future to fill positions.
"And we are in discussions with other physicians that may be available anytime from two months to two years down the road. We are in discussions with resident physicians in their first year of residency school we're in discussions with some students who are in the midst of medical school. And to be honest, we're starting to talk to students who have not yet been accepted into medical school recognising that recruitment is an ongoing issue so those who are interested in medical school, we want them to consider Estevan as their future."
"It's a recruiting and a retention problem. That is the responsibility of this office and we need to do better."
"We recognize that it has been a difficult time for our community in terms of the lack of physicians we currently have. we have not been able to adequately service the community in terms of the number of physicians over the past few months. The physicians that we do have that are covering the emergency room and clinics have done an extraordinary job trying to fill the gaps. They've done everything humanly possible."
According to the numbers provided by the government of Saskatchewan, 77% of the 200 internationally trained physicians work in rural or regional communities.
"There is a challenge to recruit physicians to our community and most other communities. This isn't a problem that Estevan is alone in. When I talk to colleagues across the country, there are countless communities that are experiencing physician shortages."
"Physicians are coming here and there are some who have stayed here 15, 20, 30 years but there are many who leave after three, four, five years and that is a big struggle that we need to do better on."
"It is a complex issue with many moving parts and we're exploring new avenues all the time. we recruit right around the world. we would like to think we are doing everything we can to try and recruit here but clearly, we need to continue to explore and invent new ways to both recruit and retain physicians in Estevan."