An Estevan father is speaking out after physician wait times have drastically increased over the last six months in the Energy City.
Since the community lost three family doctors last summer, Nick Ginther told 980 CJME he’s written emails to both the city and the province about how it’s “pretty well impossible” to get a scheduled appointment with one in town.
In his eyes, the biggest issue right now is that Estevan has just one walk-in clinic, which is only open on Saturdays between 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
“There’s people lined up outside — before it even opens — at 8 a.m. or earlier, just so they can get in,” Ginther said.
Meanwhile, he added St. Joseph Hospital’s emergency room is packed with non-urgent patients, who didn’t make it to the walk-in clinic during that two and a half hour period.
“You see (non-urgent patients) that have had to go to emergency, and — say they get there at noon — they still have to wait there most of the day because the doctor doesn’t come in until 5 p.m. or later,” he explained.
“I, myself, have a young kid at home and sometimes it kind of scares a person knowing that you really can’t see a doctor if you may need to.”
Greg Hoffart, chief executive officer of St. Joseph’s Hospital, said the longer wait times are attributed to family clinics not currently taking on any new patients. He added the emergency room is filling up because people are seeing those physicians for things they’d normally see their family doctor for.
“We’re seeing wait times for the non-urgent cases increase to a level that is a little bit less than comfortable for us — but certainly meets the national guidelines— but it’s less than our community is used to for sure,” he explained.
Hoffart added that Estevan residents are encouraged to visit doctors in surrounding communities if they need an appointment or prescription filled. However, Ginther said that’s not ideal.
“Everybody works, so to be able to just get up and go to Regina for the day if you have to see a doctor or another community just doesn’t always work for people,” Ginther explained.
According to the Saskatchewan Health Authority, by the end of this month, Estevan will have lost four family physicians since last June. That would bring the total number of doctors in the city down to eight from 12.
To fill the void, the health authority noted they’ve hired two internationally-trained doctors who are slated to start at the end of March. Another two physicians are expected to be hired in the fall.
In the meantime, Ginther said he — like many others in the community — would like better access to doctors on a non-urgent basis in Estevan.
“I think it would be a good idea to have a clinic that isn’t just open on Saturdays, maybe a clinic that you could go to every day for a walk-in,” he suggested. “I think that something should be done about it. I’m not too impressed with the situation.”