New obstetrician-gynecologist arrives in Estevan

Estevan has its new obstetrician and gynecologist, ending a five-month spell in which the services weren’t available at St. Joseph’s Hospital.

Dr. Ahmad Sawwan’s first day practicing in the city was on Sunday. His office is located at the medical clinic inside St. Joe’s.

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Sawwan is originally from Egypt and went to medical school in that country. He then worked as a family doctor outside of Egypt for nine years.

Sawwan came to Canada about a dozen years ago to complete his obstetrics and gynecology residence at Memorial University in Newfoundland. He has practiced in Newfoundland, Labrador and New Brunswick.

He’ll be the only obstetrician in the Sun Country Health Region.

“It’s no cliché in obstetrics that when you save a mother’s life and a baby’s life, it shows right away,” said Sawwan.

He decided to accept the job at St. Joseph’s because of the friendly people he encountered while visiting the city last November.

“I think a major part of my job that I want to do is go into a medium-sized hospital and an impact on the way things are, and try to implement what we learned in college,” said Sawwan.

“That wasn’t going to be easy if I had applied to a much bigger hospital with norms and routines that would be more difficult to change and improve.”

He has worked in other small and medium-sized hospitals, and St. Joseph’s fit the bill for Sawwan due to its size and its staff.

“It has a lot of potential to grow, and grow in a way the community would appreciate,” said Sawwan.

St. Joseph’s is well-equipped and well-maintained hospital, and the employees are motivated to do a good job.

Estevan was also a perfect fit for him, he said.

Since he completed his residency in Canada, Sawwan didn’t have to go through the Saskatchewan International Physician Practice Assessment. But he did need to be licenced by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan, which was a very lengthy process, according to Greg Hoffort, the hospital’s executive director. It’s the reason St. Joseph’s was without the obstetrician and gynecologist services for so long.

“We brought Dr. Sawwan out in November to take a look at the community and show him everything we have, and to meet a lot of the staff and community people,” said Hoffort. “From that we decided we were really impressed with Dr. Sawwan and we wanted to offer him a position here, and we were grateful he accepted.”

Hoffort said the services Sawwan provides have been in need since the departure of Dr. Idris Yekinni last November. He stressed a complete obstetrical service is dependent on the ability to manage high-risk pregnancies, including C-sections, and so they were waiting on Sawwan’s arrival.

“We have an obstetrics program, and it’s vital to have a qualified obstetrician,” said Hoffort.

A lot of expectant mothers have had to go to Regina in the last five months for checkups or to have their babies.

“If at all possible, we want people to get the services they want and expect right in Estevan, rather than travel to Regina,” said Hoffort. “It’s a very important piece of the St. Joseph’s puzzle.”

Hoffort didn’t know how many babies have been born in Regina who would have been born in Estevan, nor did he have the number of births at St. Joseph’s over the last five months.

But the hospital had more than 300 deliveries per year while Yekinni was practicing here, since St. Joseph’s is the one hospital in the health region with an obstetrics department.

“I can tell you my phone has been buzzing … from staff and physicians who know he’s coming, to make sure that Dr. Sawwan is here, because they’ve been waiting for him anxiously.”

An example of the challenges caused by the lack of an obstetrician and gynecologist came early this year. The first baby born at St. Joseph’s Hospital in 2017 was delivered on Jan. 13, which is much later than normal.

Sawwan brings the total number of physicians in the city to 12, including family physicians, a surgeon, an anesthesiologist and now a obstetrician-gynecologist. 

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