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'It’s a ripple effect': Physician says lack of family doctors causing system to crumble

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As many medical clinics close their doors for good, medical professionals around Saskatchewan are looking for ways to meet patients' needs.

The College of Family Physicians says it takes six years to train a new doctor. They also said that fewer students are choosing to study family medicine because of drawbacks, like overhead costs.

“It’s a ripple effect, and then for those family doctors who are left behind, we are just trying to see more and more patients and help with a burden and therefore our existing patients are waiting longer and longer to see us,” college president Dr. Andries Muller said.

Experts in Saskatchewan are looking at how other provinces are handling their healthcare system. In British Columbia, they announced a new payment model where doctors would be paid depending on the complexity of the appointment, including accounting for administrative costs, rather than a flat rate per visit like in Saskatchewan.

“We’ve heard folks in Saskatchewan calling for something smaller, and saying that this absolutely needs to happen to address the issues that exist in primary care in the province right now,” NDP Health Critic Vicki Mowat said.

The Minister of Rural and Remote Health, Everett Hindley said the province had met to discuss primary care at the end of October.

“There were some discussions about the primary care working group that’s doing its work, and we’re waiting for some recommendations from that group and then we’ll make some decisions,” Hindley said.

Muller said there is a domino effect as problems in primary care spill into walk-in clinics and emergency rooms, causing overcrowded hospitals and cancelled surgeries.

“It just proves the point that the basis of a good healthcare system is a good primary care system, and so if the primary care system crumbles, the rest of the healthcare system crumbles.”

He said the best long-term solution was to bolster the primary care system, and that a team-based approach will save the province money. 

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