Earlier this month, City of Martensville Community Economic Development Manager Dillon Shewchuk reported to Council that there have been some discussions and issues around physician recruitment in respect to our community.
“Before 2016, Martensville and other ‘bedroom’ communities were excluded from accessing provincial ‘Return for Service’ residents from practicing in our community. In 2016 discussions took place with the Ministry and included Warman in our meetings. At that point, we believed things were changed and we were able to access these residents as one more means of recruiting,” Shewchuk stated in his report.
Recently however, it was discovered that things were not as they seemed. “Something changed along the way, and we learned that again we are being excluded. Multiple discussions have taken place with the local MLA about this situation, messages conveyed to the Ministry; however, no change is expected or to honor the correspondence that was provided to us in 2016. Our local clinic is leading in this advocacy, and we are determining next steps on this situation,” Shewchuk added.
Conversations around this topic began approximately seven years ago when Dr. Allison Adamus of Martensville Collective Health and Wellness witnessed the struggles of being within a close vicinity of Saskatoon firsthand. “One of the biggest barriers that we seem to face is that the Government can’t decide if we are rural or urban,” Adamus said.
Adamus has spearheaded much advocacy when it comes to bringing additional physicians and healthcare options to Martensville & the surrounding area. The news in 2016 that Family Medicine graduates would be able to complete their Return of Service (ROS) requirements within Martensville and Warman was a major victory for the communities and since then, Adamus as well as City officials believed that things had changed.
The agreement was aimed at recruiting Family Medicine (FM) graduates to bedroom communities outside of Saskatoon and Regina that were deemed to be underserved. It recognized Warman and Martensville to be underserved communities and was modified to allow graduates to complete their ROS training within these communities. The original letter, received in 2016, stated that restrictions would be removed on ROS contracts to read that any community deemed in need of physicians could be eligible; however, once aware that doctors were being denied when it came to Martensville and Warman, Adamus contacted Saskdocs, the organization contracted through the Ministry of Health to administer the ROS contracts, and was told that the letter was misinterpreted. Adamus was informed that the agreement was instead changed for the FM graduates who were completing their residency training in the Saskatoon or Regina programs, but not the other five available locations within the province, which Adamus stated was not indicated within the original agreement.
“The letter stated that they would be removing restrictions on ROS contracts to read that any community deemed in need of physicians could be eligible. What actually happened is they only removed that stipulation on the contract for the residents in Saskatoon and Regina, but not on the other five sites, so it only gave us a fraction of the people we needed,” Adamus explained.
Between the two communities of Martensville and Warman, there is a population of approximately 30,000 and within the province, these are the only two cities of their size to be without a hospital. Additional health care options within these cities would not only benefit residents living within them, but also residents within the numerous surrounding communities.
“COVID has taken so much of our focus, and deservedly so, but the needs of our community have continued and our fight to meet those needs has never stopped. Those needs mean service to our clients. We need lab services, mental health services, addiction services. We need palliative care services and services for our seniors. We need access to speech pathology for our kids. We need equal access for the people who live in our communities compared to the people who live within the borders of Saskatoon. Just because we are 18 kilometers away doesn’t mean we don’t deserve access and we don’t deserve the same kind of health care as the people on the other end of the highway,” Adamus said.