May 22, 2024

Dr. Andre Grobler ‘honoured and privileged’ to be chosen SMA president at 2024 Spring RA

Dr. Andre Grobler, a family physician from Prince Albert, feels “honoured and privileged” to be chosen president of the Saskatchewan Medical Association (SMA).

Dr. Grobler was elected on Friday, May 10, during the 2024 Spring Representative Assembly (RA) in Regina. Dr. Grobler becomes the 58th president and succeeds Dr. Annette Epp, a Saskatoon gynecologist.

“My goal when I joined the SMA board of directors in 2017 was and always has been to listen to members and to represent physicians during board meetings and every level needed,” he told delegates at the RA. “As SMA president, I will be a passionate advocate for Saskatchewan’s physicians.”

Dr. Grobler said he wants doctors to practice in an environment where they feel supported by government and health care partners. “We need to establish a dialogue so that decisions are made with the input and knowledge of physicians,” he said. “We can accomplish much more if we work together.”

He said the SMA needs to work in collaboration with the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) on a set of Practitioner Staff Bylaws that are mutually satisfactory to both parties. The Bylaws have been under discussion for years. The SMA does not consider the Bylaws finalized and has asked that they be labelled as “interim.” Dr. Grobler also noted implementation of the new agreement will be a focus during his one-year term.

Dr. Grobler was born and raised in Pretoria, South Africa, studied medicine at the University of the Free State, and worked in trauma and family medicine for two years before moving to Estevan in 2008. In 2014, he moved to Prince Albert to enroll in the Surgical Skills Program for one year and remained in the community. Dr. Grobler now works in family medicine, emergency medicine, obstetrics, GP surgery, and as a hospitalist. He is also director of the Enhanced Surgical Skills Program in Prince Albert for the Department of Academic Family Medicine. He joined the SMA Board of Directors in 2017.

RA elections

The RA elected the following to the SMA Board of Directors:

SMA officers

  • President – Dr. Andre Grobler, Prince Albert
  • Vice-President – Dr. Pam Arnold, Regina
  • Honorary Treasurer – Dr. Carla Holinaty, Saskatoon
  • Past President – Dr. Annette Epp, Saskatoon (ex-officio)

Directors

  • Sanchit Bhasin, Regina
  • Brady Bouchard, North Battleford
  • Geethan Chandran, Saskatoon
  • Breanna Davis, Prince Albert
  • Morgan Hewitt, Saskatoon
  • Jay Kalra, Saskatoon
  • Stephen Loden, Meadow Lake
  • Mohamed Moolla, Regina

President’s address    

Dr. Annette Epp, 2023-24 SMA president, highlighted the following in her farewell address to delegates:

  • The 2023 President and Vice-President’s Tour began on May 10, 2023, almost immediately after the 2023 Spring RA. It was a real pleasure meeting physicians in their home communities, hearing about their local issues, and listening to their concerns. Their commitment to medicine and to their profession is inspiring.
  • The SMA secured $20 million in stabilization funding for fee-for-service family physicians, announced by the Minister of Health at the 2023 Fall RA. The funding assisted family physicians dealing with unmanageable workloads and inadequate compensation.
  • In February 2024, physicians overwhelmingly ratified the new four-year agreement with the Ministry of Health. Ratification was the culmination of five months of intense negotiations that built upon a much larger strategy to actively nurture strong relationships within the SMA and the profession, as well as with external stakeholders.
  • The SMA continues to be committed to working with the SHA on Interim Practitioner Staff Bylaws. Discussions are at a point of pause and refresh, but producing Bylaws that reflect a collegial supportive relationship between the SHA and physicians is a top SMA priority.
  • The SMA has made progress in equity, diversity, and racism, but more can and needs to be done. In September 2023, the SMA hosted an inaugural EDI conference in Saskatoon with the theme: Uncovering Racism in Medicine: A Pathway Forward. The SMA has engaged with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan on a survey on racism in the medical profession. The SMA’s workplace wellbeing team has expanded and is in place to address issues that affect the daily work lives of physicians.

Allyship: Why does it matter?

Dr. Nnamdi Ndubuka, SMA Physician Advocate, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, told delegates that leaders have a responsibility to confront racism, discrimination, and bias in Saskatchewan’s health system.

He spoke to allyship, saying it is the active and consistent practice of re-evaluating learning. Individuals in positions of privilege and power seek to work with marginalized groups in a long-term, relationship-building process based on trust, consistency, and accountability.

He told delegates that an ally will listen, speak out against hurtful comments or insulting actions, help others understand discrimination and exclusion, share power, unlearn biases and stereotypes, be aware of their own advantages and how to use them, and understand that being an ally requires ongoing learning.

Physician Wellbeing and Support Programs

Dr. Tracy Danylyshen-Laycock (PhD), Director, Physician Wellness and Support Programs, and Dr. Gbenga Adebayo, SMA Physician Advocate, Workplace Wellbeing (Saskatoon), made a presentation to the RA on the programs offered to physicians:

  • The Physician Health Program is available to medical learners, physicians, and immediate family members for assessment, treatment, and monitoring for mental health and/or physical issues.
  • Workplace Wellbeing services focus on proactively addressing workplace issues and promoting a healthy workplace.In 2023, 136 workplace wellbeing cases were opened; 100 of the 136 cases were resolved by Dec. 31, 2023, with the remainder carried over into 2024.

College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan report

Dr. Alan Beggs, president of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan (CPSS), said the number of discipline cases reported to the CPSS continues to increase. He suggested that post-pandemic, the public could be more willing to report cases. The SMA’s workplace wellbeing initiatives should assist the CPSS in cases involving workplace civility and breakdowns.

He added the CPSS is constantly looking at alternate routes to licensure to address physician shortages. Regulations are in place to ensure qualified physicians are hired into safe practices. He noted fully trained and qualified specialist physicians trained in the United States can come to Canada on a direct licence.

Ministers of Health addresses

The Honourable Everett Hindley, Minister of Health, and the Honourable Tim McLeod, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, Seniors, and Rural and Remote Health, highlighted the following:

  • The government and the SMA have a shared interest in building on successful negotiations on a new contract. The Ministry of Health immediately began the work of implementing the agreement.
  • The government is committed to making Saskatchewan a desirable place to practice medicine. The provincial budget allocated $7.6 billion in the health portfolio, the largest amount ever. Community-based, fee-for-service family physicians have received stabilization funding. The new agreement provides competitive compensation, a new payment model, the TPM, and innovation funding that will be integral to the future of family medicine in Saskatchewan.
  • The Ministry is working with developers to resolve issues related to the new medical claims processing system.

SMA Annual General Meeting

The Annual General Meeting of the SMA was a hybrid virtual/in-person format, held on May 11. Members approved the audited financial statements of the SMA for the year ending Dec. 31, 2023.

Awards and presentations

Dr. Grobler was officially installed as 2024-25 president of the SMA by Canadian Medical Association (CMA) president Dr. Kathleen Ross during a Friday evening awards ceremony. Dr. Ross also recognized four Saskatchewan physicians who are recipients of CMA honorary memberships: Dr. Rick Gore-Hickman, Dr. Gene Marcoux, Dr. Jim Melenchuk, and Dr. Mysore S. Renuka-Prasad.

The SMA presented its inaugural Service Award to Dr. Guruswamy Sridhar of Regina, who served as SMA president in 2010-11. The award recognizes a physician’s contributions to the SMA on committees, the Board of Directors or in other activities that support the SMA and its mission. Dr. Sridhar’s involvement with the SMA spans several years, in varying roles, including chair of the Medical Compensation Review Committee and membership on the Bylaws and Rules Review Committee, the Legislation and Policy Committee, the Finance Committee, and committees related to electronic records and information technology. He was the SMA’s representative on the CMA Board of Directors from 2014 to 2020.

We need to establish a dialogue so that decisions are made with the input and knowledge of physicians.

Dr. Andre Grobler, SMA president

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