The doctor is in… or, in the case of the Meadow Lake Hospital, the doctors are in.

Recently, the Saskatchewan Health Authority announced the hiring of nine new physicians and one nurse practitioner for the Meadow Lake area. Dr. Umber Arain, Dr. Maryam Bahramarsharif, Dr. Reza Jalaeian Taghaddomi, Dr. Reed Gillanders, Dr. Andrew Arndt, Dr. Anna Redekop, Dr. Aimee Seguin, Dr. Stephen Loden, Dr. Gareth Meyer and nurse practitioner Nicole Marshall have all joined the local team, meaning a full physician complement is now in place at the Meadow Lake Hospital.

“We’ve actually got 15 doctors now, which is what we ideally want,” remarked Dr. Gavin Van de Venter, chief of staff at the Meadow Lake Hospital. “It’s more than our full complement – it’s more than what we’re actually funded for, so we’ve managed to do quite well at recruiting doctors.”

Van de Venter went on to say the doctors have contracts that range from one year to three years.

“Some doctors, it appears, will stay longer – but you never know what will happen once the contracts are up,” he said. “Once we figure out who is going to stay and for how long, we will be looking to expand services again. We want to expand our services to Canoe Lake, to Waterhen, Green Lake and Goodsoil, as well as help out at Loon Lake and Ministikwan… we want to get started and maybe add a few services if we can along the way.”

Van de Venter said Meadow Lake has, by default, become the hub for this part of the province when it comes to health care.

“We offer surgery and obstetrics, and we want to be the area people can rely on when it comes to surgical services, emergency services and so on,” he said. “Re-establishing out-of-town services will help, especially for elderly people who struggle to get around. It will be nice to go into those areas to offer clinics and maybe do a few home visits as well to those people who struggle with mobilization.”

Last year, six physicians and two nurse practitioners left the local hospital and their departure led to challenges in maintaining clinical services.

“I would really like to thank the local teams for their commitment and extraordinary effort while we were recruiting,” stated Dr. Stephanie Young, SHA physician executive with Integrated Northern Health. “In addition, we thank the public for their understanding and for utilizing some of the alternate options that were available for services.”

Van de Venter, meanwhile, said the full slate of doctors means extra services can continue to be offered at the local clinic on Centre Street.

“At the clinic in Meadow, we have lots of extra services we would like to continue offering such as chronic disease management, chronic diabetic clinics, mental health services, dietician services and more,” he said. “We want to be able to expand on those as well.”

As for the new doctors, two may be familiar to patients to the community.

“Dr. Seguin and Dr. Loden have returned,” Van de Venter added. “They went to work in B.C. for a year. Dr. Seguin was doing a little more work under a surgeon so she could gain some more experience. But, this is where they want to be, so they have bought a home and are here. As for the other doctors. many have worked as family medical residents in Meadow.”

Community members looking for a family physician are encouraged to contact the Meadow Lake Primary Health Care clinic.

“Patients need to know the quality of physicians we have been able to recruit is very high,” Van de Venter said. “In terms of COVID-19, I reassure people vaccines are coming and they are the solution all doctors are hoping for to keep this virus under control. In the meantime, if people continue to social distance use masks, and wash hands to not only protect themselves, but also the people around them.”

by Phil Ambroziak