Estevan is going to have another physician who is capable of providing surgical and obstetrics services, but it won't happen for more than 14 months.
St. Joseph’s Hospital executive director Greg Hoffort announced on April 16 that Dr. Andre Grobler has been accepted into Saskatchewan's one-year Enhanced Surgical Skills Program (ESSP). Grobler will begin the full-time training program, which is based out of Prince Albert, in July.
ESSP accepts two physicians each year. The program receives applications from physicians from across Canada who want to become surgeons, but a priority is given to Saskatchewan physicians who will be providing services in rural areas.
Physicians enhance their likelihood for acceptance if they indicate they will remain in their current rural community.
Once he graduates from the program in June of 2015, Grobler will be able to complete such procedures as general surgeries, some emergency operations, c-sections and other obstetrics procedures, endoscopies and more.
“It’s certainly a great thing for St. Joe’s with the skills he’s going to come back here with, and stay here with,” said Hoffort.
Grobler said he is hopeful that there will be round-the-clock coverage for all of those operations once he returns to Estevan. He might also be able to perform operations in Weyburn, and at other health centres, in the Sun Country Health Region.
“I am certainly willing to travel to other areas in the health region to service them,” said Grobler.
Grobler said he considered applying for the program for some time. When he left Estevan to practice in Prince Albert a few years ago, he didn’t know that the ESSP existed.
“It was a coincidence that I worked with some students up in the north, and they told me about the program,” said Grobler.
He said he is intrigued about the possibility of performing surgeries, and he enjoys working in smaller centres like Estevan. He doesn’t want to move to a bigger city like Saskatoon or Regina.
“In a smaller area, we just don’t have the luxury of having surgeons and specialties all the time,” said Grobler. “So that opened a door for me.”
If he is to resume delivering babies, for example, Grobler said he would also like to know how to perform a C-section.
Hoffort said Grobler is one of Estevan’s senior physicians, and he carries a high patient load. Grobler's absence will create a strain on local physicians during the 12 months in which he is in Prince Albert, but Hoffort justified it by saying additional surgeries will be provided in Estevan once Grobler returns.
“The coverage option is a huge part of this for us,” said Hoffort. “We do have excellent surgeons in town. We have a surgery program and a gynecology program, but … if Dr. (Idris) Yekinni, for example, is away, the new mothers or the at-risk child births, when there’s no c-section potential, have to go to Regina.
“To have that coverage in both gynecology and surgery is something we’re looking forward to.”
Grobler’s departure will leave Estevan with 10 physicians, including Yekinni, who is a specialist, and nine general practitioners. Another physician will be leaving Estevan this summer.
But one physician in the Saskatchewan Physician Assessment Process is expected to arrive in Estevan in September, and another entering the fall assessment process has committed to practice in Estevan.
Hoffort said St. Joseph’s Hospital continues to work to increase the physician numbers in Estevan.
Grobler practices out of the Estevan Medical Clinic, where he is one of six physicians. One physician at the clinic is a gynecologist. Grobler's patients will be able to make an appointment with another physician at the clinic during his absence, and he said some patients have already made alternate arrangements.