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Saskatoon family feeling 'in the dark' with pediatric specialist they rely on set to leave


A family in Saskatoon is worried about the future health of their son once Saskatchewan’s only pediatric gastroenterologist (GI) leaves this spring.

Zach Engen was diagnosed with Eosinophilic Esophagitis (EoE) in October 2020, when he was 11 years old.

EoE is a rare condition involving the esophagus becoming inflamed and narrow. As a result, Engen wears a feeding tube and can only eat certain foods.

“Sometimes he can’t even get water down,” Engen’s mom, Alyssa Weber, told CTV News.

“No medication is helping. We’re in and out of hospital.”

Dr. Simone Nicol, the province’s only pediatric GI, was the one who diagnosed Engen and has been the boy’s doctor throughout.

While it was heartbreaking to learn of Engen’s condition, Weber said she was relieved to finally get answers from Dr. Nicol — after months of watching her son sick and vomiting.

But Nicol is winding down her services in May, according to an automated email response from the physician.

“Now she’s leaving, it kind of leaves us stranded,” Weber said.

The family of Zach Engen, 11, is concerned as Saskatchewan's only pediatric gastroenterologist prepares to leave. (Laura Woodward/CTV News)

In Nicol’s automated message, she says the Saskatchewan Department of Pediatrics and the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) are working on “alternate solutions.”

“I appreciate the frustration and burden this may place on the over 1,000 patients,” the physician’s response reads.

Weber said she hasn’t received any information on a plan to fill the void left by Nicol's exit, to ensure her son gets the specialized care he needs.

“No one’s told us anything, we’re in the dark. What’s the plan?” Weber said.

In response to a CTV News inquiry, the Ministry of Health provided a statement.

“We understand the difficulties families may face as a result of this specialist's departure,” the Ministry of Health wrote to CTV News.

The ministry said recruitment and retention of physicians is a “top priority” and the province is working with the University of Saskatchewan to add eight more medical residency seats. Top Stories

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