After 18 years of providing medical services to the community, Dr. Veno Padayachee is moving on to an exciting new challenge.
Padayachee confirmed this past week that he has accepted the position as the chief executive officer for the Saskatchewan Medical Association, effective today. He will be replacing Martin Vogel who has accepted an executive position with the Canadian Medical Association.
Padayachee is no stranger to the SMA and its inner workings since he has been a member of its executive for four years and served as president in 2006.
After being offered the position, the local physician said he struggled with the decision since it will send him in a new direction, but he said he might be in a position to bring some issues to the conference table that might otherwise go unnoticed.
"I am aware of the impact this decision might have on Estevan because of the current shortage of physicians, but then this has been a chronic problem in this city, so I suppose there is no real good time to leave," he said. "We have recruited 10 doctors in the past few years and lost them all."
Padayachee said that being able to look at the problem from a provincial perspective, he might be able to be more effective in helping the medical community provide more doctors to rural Saskatchewan, meaning any community outside of Regina or Saskatoon.
"I certainly know the plight of rural Saskatchewan and I also know the local problems in finding doctors but there is a City and RM medical search team and other clinics seeking doctors for Estevan," he said.
Of course not all his attention will be focused on rural physician recruitment since the SMA's mandate is huge. He said the fact the Health Ministry has put items in the fee schedule that will help rural communities, is just one factor.
The concept of teamwork and medical team formations, in particular, are the wave of the future, he said. He is convinced that health care is going to go through a big transformation and he'd like to be part of the new experiences.
"Right now health care is very expensive and we have some unhappy providers and unhappy recipients. We need a more sustainable model. Of course I'll be working on the operations side of the issue, not the strategy side. Our current system is patient centred. With team concepts we can maybe deliver some pro-active programs," he said.
Padayachee said that perhaps his experience as a family physician, anesthesist, chief of staff and being an executive member of SMA helped him land the CEO's position. But no matter what, Estevan will also be home, even though he will be re-establishing himself in Saskatoon.
At the age of 51, he said he had to undergo some serious considerations before taking the position.
"Change is difficult for anyone, you weigh the pros and cons and in this case, I hope that by making this decision I can make some difference."
The Estevan Medical Clinic with Drs. Di Naidu and Andre Grobler will continue to offer services to the community as usual with Padayachee's patient list and files being transferred to their care.
They intend to recruit more physicians to join the practice.
"There is some anxiety, but nothing that keeps me awake at night," he said with a smile.
The current president of the SMA is Dr. Phillip Fourie of Yorkton.
"This is my first shot at direct administration. I do know some of the ins and outs because my experiences through the years have given me a chance to do some administration work," he said.
"I want my patients to understand I'm not leaving them stranded and we had a medical community meeting just the other day and worked out an on-call schedule for June, and I will be here to work a few days in a week or two to help with the transition. I'll be going back and forth between Estevan and Saskatoon for awhile yet. We're down in physician numbers again, but services will continue, not cut. It's demanding more work from the doctors but they have all stepped up to cover the situation for now, but of course that pace can't be sustained without more help," he said.
Padayachee said there is a lot of work to do with the SMA since the new fee schedule for doctors has just recently been approved and adopted. Contingency plans for rural Saskatchewan are also an ongoing concern, just as they are in Estevan.
"I still say team plans, interdisciplinary practices can be embraced, so other professionals such as pharmacists, pathologists, nurses can get more involved in treating the patients and clients," he said.
"We need community buy-in so delivery of health care can be made by a number of players, just as long as the patient remains first on the list."
Padayachee said that by expanding the number of seats in the provincial medical school, Saskatchewan is ready to provide more home grown doctors with over 100 now graduating from the U of S each year. The communities are encouraging them to stay in-province with various incentives, especially in the rural communities, but Padayachee said rural Saskatchewan has to step up and provide the tools and support systems for them to use.
"The young grads are beginning to see the benefits of a rural practice, not just the challenges, but when they see too few doctors all on the run, they get frightened off, so developing a learning model in the rural settings will prepare local graduates to practice locally because they'll know the local culture, the people and find it easy to adapt to the community. This is an excellent time to explore possibilities and potential and that's part of the reason why I'm accepting this job," he said in conclusion.