KAMSACK — Although one Kamsack doctor left the community this month, and another is due to leave next month, in July two more doctors are due to arrive to work with the two doctors still active in the community.
Audrey Horkoff, chair of the Assiniboine Valley Health and Wellness Foundation board of directors, who has been recruiting doctors to Kamsack for more than 20 years, has helped bring a total of 13 doctors to the community.
She said that Dr. Ovie Albert, who has been here for about four years, left Kamsack for Carlyle last week and Dr. Maghar Shah is due to leave at the end of June.
The doctors sign a three-year contract and if they don’t stay for a full three years, they are required to return a portion of the incentive package they receive upon arrival, Horkoff explained. To date, none of the doctors have left before the end of their contracts.
Still working in Kamsack are Dr. Adebisi Alayo and Dr. Nadar Feredoyan who arrived in late January, she said. In July they will be joined by Dr. Kayode Bamigbola who was in the community last week for a site visit and has been taking his practicum in Kipling, and Dr. Elmira Amirazodi, a female physician.
Recruiting doctors means working with SaskHealth, Horkoff explained. The process begins as soon as a formal written registration is received and forwarded to SaskHealth. The community is listed as a possible site and twice a year, doctors involved in the SIPPA (Saskatchewan International Physician Practice Assessment) certification program receive their credentials after completion.
Typically there are about a dozen doctors accepted into the program twice a year, she said. “So, we’re very pleased to have been able to attract two of them this July.”
The foundation is responsible for raising the funds to provide incentive packages and Horkoff said each package costs between $20,000 and $25,000 and includes three months accommodation when they arrive, $3,000 towards a car rental and no lease fees at the Assiniboine Valley Medical Centre, in addition to relocation costs.
“COVID has restricted our ability to fundraise, however we were fortunate to have received a significant donation from the Kamsack Hospital auxiliary which went towards the incentive packages.”
The incentive packages are needed in order to compete with other communities looking for doctors, she said, adding that currently SaskHealth is attempting to put together a standard incentive package to be used by all communities, but until that initiative bears fruit, the incentive is up to the community to realize.
When the Kamsack hospital is on bypass, rarely is it due to the lack of doctors, currently it’s due to a lack of nursing staff or lab technicians, without which there cannot be emergency services, she explained.
Asked why a hospital which recently had 20 acute care beds is now down to five, Horkoff said that when the COVID-19 epidemic struck, SaskHealth deployed staff elsewhere, like to the OCC Hall for COVID screening, so the hospital was reduced to 10 beds. It was later reduced to five, but “we were assured the facility would be up and running by the end of October, 2021.”
She explained that the Foundation has been working with administrators and the ministers of health and rural health, but the Kamsack Hospital remains at five beds.
“We’ve done our job, we’re just waiting for the government to do its job,” she said, explaining that recruiting of nurses and lab technicians are not the Foundation’s responsibility, it is the responsibility of the Saskatchewan Health Authority.
“But we need those services,” she said. “We will continue to work towards insuring we have complete emergency service in Kamsack.”
The Kamsack emergency room, which services Kamsack with an aging population, First Nations communities, surrounding towns and villages and Madge Lake residents and tourists, is one of the busiest rural ERs in Saskatchewan, she said.
“Because Kamsack ER is so busy is why we are able to recruit physicians here, however having four doctors working in a hospital with five beds is not practical.
“We’re fortunate to have Duck Mountain Ambulance located in Kamsack, as it is responsible for transferring patients outside of the community,” she said. “However, we need our beds reopened within our own hospital.”