CEO responds to doctor concerns

The Editor:

I would like to take an opportunity to respond to Nicholas Peti's letter to the editor in the February 15, 2012 edition of the Estevan Mercury.

I agree with Mr. Peti in saying that we should consider one obvious source as we recruit physicians for the province - our own resident physicians. I also agree with him in saying that evidence shows medical trainees from Saskatchewan, or those that are studying here, are more likely to stay upon graduation. That is why I am very pleased to say that the recruitment and retention of our local (University of Saskatchewan - U of S) medical graduates has been, and will continue to be saskdocs' (Physician Recruitment Agency of Saskatchewan) number one priority; a priority reflected in our goals to:

increase the number of U of S medical graduates establishing their practices in Saskatchewan by 10 per cent;

reduce the annual turnover of physicians to less than eight per cent;

increase the percentage of Canadian-trained doctors by 10 per cent;

increase student and resident exposure to opportunities outside Saskatoon by 25 per cent; and

increase the number of practicing physicians in Saskatchewan by four per cent.

During our first, full year of operation (2011) we made considerable progress in this regard by engaging Saskatchewan medical students through a number of initiatives:

having medical trainee representation on our board of directors through the Professional Association of Interns and Residents of Saskatchewan and Student Medical Society of Saskatchewan;

having one, full-time recruiter specifically dedicated to engaging medical trainees;

meeting regularly with student bodies such as the SMSS and PAIRS to listen and respond to their issues, concerns and ideas;

working with trainees to connect them with potential employers. A recent collaborative event (January 13, 2012) in Saskatoon, where Sun Country Health Region and other employers were present, had more than 30 medical residents engage with 50 community, region and clinical representatives to talk about the many opportunities available to them;

attending and presenting to medical trainees during numerous academic half-days to tell trainees about numerous career opportunities here at home;

and, working with the U of S and Saskatchewan Medical Association (SMA) to deliver the rural externship program (PREP) that allows second year medical students to spend up to 12 weeks shadowing a practicing physician in any rural community.

Even if the above efforts, and many others, convinced every U of S medical trainees to establish their practice in Saskatchewan, we would still need to recruit from countries like the United Kingdom and Ireland to fill our current vacancies. The demand is that great.

Lately there has been some encouraging news from a recent report released by the Canadian Institute for Health Information entitled Supply, Distribution and Migration of Canadian Physicians that shows we are heading in the right direction. Saskatchewan experienced the second fastest growth in the country for the number of physicians at double the rate of population growth. Also, contrary to the national trend, Saskatchewan is the only province to experience a greater percentage increase in Canadian trained physicians than International Medical Graduates (IMGs). In fact, Saskatchewan had fewer IMGs in 2010 than in 2006 and that trend continues.

Physician recruitment and retention has been a long and ongoing challenge in Saskatchewan and the rest of the developed world. It will continue to be that way for the immediate future. However, I am confident that by working together with medical trainees, health regions, the U of S, SMA and the many other stakeholders involved in this very important issue, it is one that will eventually experience a positive result.

Edward Mantler
CEO, Saskatchewan Physician Recruitment Agency

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