Cooperation, virtual care top of mind for local doctors

Herald File Photo

A demonstration project intended to improve cooperation and the rise of virtual care are some of the topics on local physicians’ minds, the Saskatchewan Medical Association (SMA) says.

Each year the SMA holds a president’s tour, where the organization’s president travels the province to meet with other doctors so as to better advocate for them on a provincial level.

This year, due to COVID-19, the tour was done virtually.

Physicians of the former Prince Albert Parkland Health Authority spoke with SMA president Dr. Barb Konstantynowicz Wednesday.

“We were super excited to see such engagement and involvement with the physicians in Prince Albert, a very dedicated group of physicians,” she said Thursday.

“Our conversations mostly were about issues we see provincially. There are also some pretty interesting local flavours with each of the areas that we go to.”

Konstantynowicz said that the demonstration project was a major topic of discussion. It started a few years ago to explore different or new opportunities for physicians in communities to work together beyond their traditional cooperation.

“There is a unified medical group and a board working on quality improvements, improving patients’ access to care, understanding patients’ needs and things like flows within clinics,” she said.

“Really looking at how do we work better together. This is supported by the Saskatchewan Medical Association, and the section of family practice as well. We’re pretty excited about the work going on in Prince Albert.”

Predictably, COVID-19 and related issues also served as a topic of conversation for the area’s physicians, particularly when it comes to virtual care.

“When the pandemic struck in Saskatchewan, we were in the middle of negotiating our agreement (with the province), and in the negotiations, virtual care was a component,” Konstantynowicz said.

“We know that sometimes it’s difficult for patients to travel the long distance, or if they have mobility issues or accessibility issues. Some of our fellow citizens require someone to help them get to a doctor’s appointment, or they can’t get there because of transportation issues.”

The question becomes, Konstantynowicz said, how to ensure those patients still receive the best care possible.

When the pandemic hit, virtual care took off.

“Not only in Saskatchewan but across the country,” she said.

“That allowed all of us to explore (virtual care) with our patients and find ways provincially and nationally to best serve patients through virtual care. It’s still a bit of a learning curve. We still want to provide the vest care for patients, understanding that there is quite a bit we can do without exposing patients to travel, transportation and coming into a physician’s office.

“We can still provide that safety of care for patients — not only family doctors but specialists as well.”

Now that the SMA has negotiated its new contract with the province, attention is turning to the rules and bylaws that outline the relationship with them and the Saskatchewan Health Authority. The SMA is also looking at tackling the issue of racism within the health care system.

The SMA is a voluntary, member-based professional association for physicians, medical students and residents in Saskatchewan. It represents more than 2,4000 practising doctors, negotiating on their behalf, supporting then and providing advocacy for a high-quality and patient’ centred health care system.