Most Saskatchewan doctors who responded to a survey say their mental health has worsened.

That’s according to the Saskatchewan Medical Association (SMA). The SMA said it conducted an online survey in February which drew almost 400 responses from its members.

Nearly 49 per cent said their mental health was worse than prior to the pandemic and 17 per cent said it was much worse, the SMA said in a news release.

Thirty per cent said it was about the same, according to the SMA.

“We need healthy doctors to look after patients. And so, these things are really important to address and we will definitely do everything we can to work with all stakeholders to see what we can do to minimize the impact,” SMA president Dr. Eben Strydom told CTV News Wednesday.

“I think the amount of people that are struggling with mental health is staggering, the amount of physicians that feel that they need to decrease their working hours in order to recover, the amount of doctors decided they want to retire within the next couple of years , you know — we have challenges.”

Seventy-six per cent of doctors surveyed said their top concern “is a lack of physician voice in the pandemic response.”

“There were quite a few instances where it was difficult to navigate through this (pandemic) and there were differences in opinion (in government decision making), in terms of how to best manage the situation at the time. That created a lot of discord and difficulty,” Strydom continued.

The survey found that 74 per cent of respondents felt their medical practice is less satisfying than usual. Of the doctors who responded, 54 per cent plan to reduce their clinical hours over the next two years. Nineteen per cent said they planned to retire within two years.

According to Strydom, the results of the in-house survey show how the “duration and persistence of the pandemic” have affected the practice of medicine in Saskatchewan.

GOVERNMENT RESPONSE IN QUESTION PERIOD

The topic was brought up by NDP Opposition Leader Ryan Meili during Wednesday’s Question Period, which ended up with heckling during both Meili and Premier Scott Moe’s responses.

“Does the premier recognize that his choices, the disrespect that he’s shown health care workers is chasing the people who care away, and making it harder for Saskatchewan people to access the care they need,” said Meili.

Moe countered with his government’s investments in the health care sector in the latest budget cycle, noting his government is taking action.

“Action in investing… in recruiting, and adding over 4,200 nurses that are providing service in this province,” Moe said.

Health Minister Paul Merriman said his government meets with the SMA on a regular basis, and plans to attend its upcoming convention.

“We are listening to doctors. We are certainly not listening, to that one,” Merriman said, while pointing at Meili, who is a practicing family doctor in Saskatoon.

Following session on Monday, Moe added with doctors leaving the province, it may be up to the federal government to stop physicians from moving elsewhere.

“We need to recognize that this is not a problem specific to Saskatchewan … Adding to the base of our Canada Health Transfer is very different than a five-year envelope of funding that may or may not be replenished in year six,” Moe said.


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