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18th - Sep

‘I’m an optimist. I believe the glass is half full’: Dr. Phillip Fourie, SHA deputy chief medical officer

To join the management team of the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA), Dr. Phillip Fourie had to let something go – his patients.

“I had to dissolve my practice, which was one of the most difficult decisions of my career, because I had a very large family practice,” said Dr. Fourie, a Yorkton physician who became the deputy chief medical officer of the SHA in January.

“You can’t look after patients and provide high-quality care to them and do this job, so I had to dissolve my practice and hand patients over to others,” he said almost wistfully.

More difficult, perhaps, is that fact that Yorkton is a smaller centre where Dr. Fourie is not easily lost in the crowd.

“I still go shopping, I still go to soccer practice, and I see some of my former patients. It’s hard when you see them and they come up to you and they’re unhappy that you left them,” Dr. Fourie told the Saskatchewan Medical Association (SMA).

“That’s a very difficult position to be in, but I do believe that in the role I have now I have an opportunity to be part of making the system better and still improving things for patients. It is looking at the larger patient population, but I still miss the one-on-one patient care. When I’m in the ER I still have a little bit of that.”

Like other physician executives with the SHA, Dr. Fourie works .8 FTE for the SHA. He spends about .2 of his time mainly in the ER in Yorkton.

Dr. Fourie says it was important to him to stay in Yorkton while taking on his new position. It is also important to the SHA to have physician leaders and VPs spread across the province, he said.

“I’m happy here. My family is happy here,” said Dr. Fourie. “I strongly believe in a distributed leadership model. I believe that I have experience in a smaller community and that’s what I bring to the table. I know what it’s like in centres outside of Regina and Saskatoon, when you feel that everything happens there. That is why I didn’t want to move to Regina or Saskatoon when I took on this position because I feel that we’ve got good leaders across the province, outside of Regina and Saskatoon.”

As Dr. Fourie was building his practice in east-central Saskatchewan, he was expanding his knowledge of the issues affecting health care in the province. He was a Sunrise Health District rep for SMA Representative Assemblies, got onto the SMA Board of Directors and served a term as SMA president in 2011-12.

“I have always been interested in quality improvement,” he said. “I like to look at things in my practice to see what I can do better. Very early on in my practice in Yorkton I realized there are some things I can’t improve in my clinic because it’s the system that needs to be improved, so I started to get involved in trying to improve the system.”

As SMA president and vice-president he was exposed to pan-Canadian issues at national Canadian Medical Association forums. He has travelled to Alaska to study primary care models, and furthered his education in quality improvement at Inter-Mountain Health Care. He is also a certified Lean leader and a faculty member of the Clinical Quality Improvement Program.

SHA provides opportunity to improve care

The formation of the Saskatchewan Health Authority provides a unique opportunity to standardize processes and reduce the variation in services across the province, he says. The best practices from one former health region can be applied on a larger scale.

“I’m an optimist. I believe the glass is half full. I don’t like complaining about stuff. I would rather be part of the solution and try to look for ways to fix things rather than just sit back,” Dr. Fourie said.

“I love a challenge. I love looking for solutions. I feel we need to use the wisdom of the group, because we have many, many people in the province with the will and the skills to make things better. We’re just getting everybody to the table because the changes that we need and we want are not going to come from the work of one person. It’s going to come from everybody contributing.

“I truly believe in the wisdom of the group. I think there’s a lot of wisdom in this province.”

This is the fifth in a series of stories by the SMA on physicians who have taken leadership positions within the Saskatchewan Health Authority. For previous stories:

Click here to see: Dr. Susan Shaw brings clinical experience to the SHA boardroom

Click here to see: Dr. Kevin Wasko combines medical training, policy knowledge in new SHA position

Click here to see: Dr. Paul Babyn wears many hats in new SHA position

Click here to see: Dr. Mark Wahba returns from abroad to executive post with new SHA

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