Physician recruitment continues

St. Joseph’s Hospital in Estevan is going to be losing another physician, but that loss is expected to be offset with the scheduled arrival of a new medical doctor.

Dr. Michael Ovueni, a family physician who has been in the Energy City since 2013, will be leaving his practice at the Estevan Medical Group, effective the end of July. According to hospital CEO Greg Hoffort, Ovueni has provided a great service to the community since arriving more than six years ago.

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“He’s been with us through one of the physician shortage cycles, and he’s been a doctor who has provided service to a lot of patients.”

Hoffort said Ovueni’s departure is for personal reasons, and he will be working in another community.

“He practises in a group practice, so if patients desire, they will keep their files in that practice, and see one of the other doctors there. The option is also there that if they find another family physician to transfer files, but we expect some will stay with the clinic.”

He expects Ovueni will continue to practice until his departure date. 

Ouvueni’s departure leaves Estevan with 10 family physicians who see patients, and one specialist surgeon, Dr. Khalid Sheikh.  Some of the family physicians do have specialities.

The physician recruitment committee has been actively trying to bring in new doctors to Estevan, Hoffort said, and he expects there will be a new doctor arriving prior to Ovueni’s departure. He could not release any details about that new doctor as of yet.

Despite the departure of Ovueni, and the loss of a couple of other physicians earlier this year, Hoffort said Estevan still isn’t in a physician shortage situation. When they were down to five or six doctors in the community, that was a crisis situation.

“We are recruiting. Certainly it’s not a crisis at this point, but we definitely have a need for additional physicians,” said Hoffort, who would like to see Estevan’s physician count increase by one every six months for the next couple of years.

Other physicians having been carrying out short-term and medium-term locums in Estevan and covering for physicians in town, since the physicians can’t work every day.

Their top priority would be a physician with anesthesiology skills, and the second priority would be more family physicians.

Estevan has been without a permanent anesthesiologist since the departure of Dr. Anthony Davies nearly a year ago. They have been able to fill the gap with locum physicians, and they have more locums scheduled until the end of September, with the exception of a two-week gap in the summer.

“It could cause temporary gaps in the provision of emergency surgery, but other than for two weeks during the summer, we’ve got it covered,” said Hoffort.

During those two weeks, anybody requiring surgery or any high-risk patients will have to be transferred to Regina.

“There is an anesthesia shortage right across the country. Some of the locums we used to count on are now unable to come, because their communities are in a shortage. We’re not alone. It doesn’t make it any easier for us. It doesn’t make it any less concerning. But this is a problem that extends far beyond Estevan.”

One of the locums provided services to Estevan for about eight months.

The hospital is also looking for a physician with obstetrical skills. Dr. Edward Krickan has been serving as Estevan’s gynaecologist-obstetrician since the departure of Dr. Ahmad Sawwan earlier this year.

“We are definitely appreciative of his efforts in bridging this gap, and we’re also using some locums,” said Hoffort.

Krickan has been able to handle the workload of being Estevan’s obstetrician-gynecologist in addition to see patients as part of his practice.

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