‘Where we fall short:’ mental health on radar of Sask. Medical Association president

Dr. Siva Karunakaran met with Prince Albert physicians at My Place Bistro on September 12, 2018. (Jayda Noyes/Daily Herald)

Jayda Noyes, Daily Herald

The president of the Saskatchewan Medical Association (SMA) wants to see improved accessibility of mental health services in the province.

Dr. Siva Karunakaran made a stop in Prince Albert Wednesday evening to meet with physicians from the Parkland Regional Medical Association to discuss issues of their interests.

The city is the third of 12 stops in the President and Vice-President’s Tour.

Prior to the meeting, Karunakaran shared the struggles physicians said they’re having in regards to mental health and suicide prevention.

“What the emergency room doctors tell us is that, you know, if someone gets a cut in their arm or constant chest pain, heart attack or bleeding…they know exactly what to do. They’re very comfortable doing that. But if a 15-year-old girl or boy’s family think they are going to commit suicide…it’s very hard for them to deal with those kind of situations,” he said, adding there’s also a shortage of emergency doctors to begin with.

He said providing these services are challenging because it’s a part-provincial and part-federal commitment, and accessibility varies geographically.

“In Regina, they have done some good work. They have employed some case workers who look at the case in the beginning and if somebody needs to have counselling services, for example, they are directed that way. If they need to see the psychiatrist then they are reduced of wait times successfully, but some areas are lacking in that,” he said.

One of them is the La Loche and Île-à-la-Crosse area, he said about SMA’s feedback from the communities’ physicians, although he wasn’t at that particular meeting.

Instead, Vice-President Dr. Allan Woo was there because him and Karunakaran split the duties.

Karunakaran noted he met with the federal minister of health earlier that day and shed light on the problem.

He said they have plans to connect again and that she was “graceful” for being open to further discussion.

Dr. Karunakaran is a nephrologist in Regina, meaning he specializes in the kidneys.

His term as SMA’s president only lasts for a year.

He took over in May from Prince Albert’s Joanne Sivertson and, according to Dr. Karunakaran, he’s passing the torch on to a Saskatoon doctor when his term is completed.