May 24, 2022

New SMA president Dr. John Gjevre notes physician resilience, optimism during 2022 Spring RA

Newly elected Saskatchewan Medical Association (SMA) president Dr. John Gjevre hopes during his one-year term to recognize the resilience of physicians and health care workers who have worked through more than two years of the pandemic.

“Physicians have been resilient, and despite COVID challenges, we are optimistic for the future. Being optimistic, I hope that the peak of the pandemic has passed and overall we have endured,” Dr. Gjevre told delegates during a virtual meeting of the 2022 Spring Representative Assembly (RA) on May 6, 2022.

“We have seen resilience and optimism these past two years,” said Dr. Gjevre, a Saskatoon respirologist. “Physicians sharing the workload to care for the sick. Doctors from various disciplines retraining to help with inpatient and critical care. Physicians advocating for mask use, social distancing, and vaccinations. There has been tremendous work done by our public health physicians in educating the people of Saskatchewan and shepherding us through the last two years.

“I admire them for their vision and perseverance through this period. As a profession, we have achieved significant milestones in pivoting to virtual care and other adaptations to improve patient health.”

Dr. Gjevre also spoke on the need focus on physician wellness in light of an SMA survey of members from February that found 66% of respondents rated their mental health as worse or much worse since before the pandemic. The survey also found 74% of respondents believe their medical practice is less satisfying than usual, while 26% said their workload had increased a great deal (26%) or increased somewhat (30%). Almost 55% indicated they intend to reduce their clinical hours in the next two years. Dr. Gjevre said the feedback shows primary care reform, including physician compensation, is necessary.

Click here to see Dr. Gjevre’s address to the RA.

Dr. Gjevre is the SMA’s 56th president, succeeding Dr. Eben Strydom, who will continue to serve on the SMA Board of Directors as past-president. Also elected at the 2022 Spring RA to the board executive were Dr. Annette Epp as vice-president and Dr. Andre Grobler as honorary treasurer.

Members of the SMA board for 2022-23 were also elected: Drs. Pamela Arnold, Geethan Chandran, Patrick Duffy, Susan Hayton, Carla Holinaty, Mohamed Moolla, Nnamdi Ndubuka and Roona Sinha. Dr. Strydom received an SMA Award of Merit from Dr. Gjevre for his years of service to the SMA on the board and as president.

Physicians want a voice in planning

Dr. Strydom also touched on the survey results during his final address as president. He said the responses on physicians’ mental health were not surprising.

“The survey confirms what I have been hearing from SMA members during my presidency,” he said. “The medical profession is stressed and tired. Physicians are reaching a limit.”

He noted physicians also want to have a voice in shaping the future of health care in the province. “They especially want to be heard as the Ministry of Health and the Saskatchewan Health Authority begin to plan for the recovery of the post-pandemic health system. Again, this is not an entirely new finding. The SMA has advocated for a stronger voice in the management of the health care system. We have had some successes, but during the pandemic, the physician community sometimes felt ignored.”

Dr. Strydom, who practises in Melfort, thanked his colleagues and his family for supporting him during a challenging year as president of the SMA.

Click here to see Dr. Strydom’s address to the RA.

CMA president touts wellness initiatives

Canadian Medical Association (CMA) president Dr. Katharine Smart told delegates that results from a CMA survey earlier this year corroborate the SMA survey findings on physician wellness. Preliminary data shows 53% of Canadian physicians and medical learners who responded have experienced high levels of burnout, while 46% are considering reducing their clinical work in the next 24 months. 

She said the CMA has created wellness resources for physicians, including an online hub. She noted the CMA urged the federal government to protect health workers from physical and psychological harassment, which led to the passage of a bill that criminalizes the intimidation of health-care workers and patients that prevents workers from administering care and patients from accessing it.

Dr. Smart also cited other CMA initiatives:

  • Hosting a health workforce summit with the Canadian Nurses Association and more than 40 other health stakeholders.
  • Calling for more federal government action and investment in health care.
  • Bringing stakeholders together to discuss how to do health differently during the annual Health Summit, which continues in May and June.

Dr. Smart, who was raised in southwest Saskatchewan and practices in Whitehorse, Yukon, presented CMA honorary memberships to four Saskatchewan physicians: Drs. Bruce Berscheid, Jamie Harris, Jeffrey McKerrell, and Sandra Wirth.

Health ministers address RA delegates

The 2022 Spring RA also featured addresses from Health Minister Paul Merriman and Everett Hindley, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, Seniors and Rural and Remote Health, followed by a question-and-answer session with delegates.

The ministers thanked physicians for their hard work during a challenging year, acknowledging their fatigue and frustration at a constantly changing health care environment. They noted the provincial budget includes the largest investment in health in Saskatchewan’s history, and pointed to initiatives such as the creation of an agency dedicated to the recruitment and retention of health care workers, including physicians; $21.6 million allocated to reduce surgical wait times; $95 million for pandemic response; and mental health supports, including the addition of treatment beds.

On the issue of physician recruitment and retention, Merriman also cited recruitment efforts for health care workers that will span Canada and the world, the addition of family medicine training seats, and more supports for physicians under the Saskatchewan International Physician Practice Assessment (SIPPA) program.

The SMA Annual General Meeting was also held within the RA. In addition to regular business, SMA members considered resolutions pertaining to proposed amendments to SMA bylaws. Consideration of some of those resolutions was deferred to a future special meeting of SMA members.

The next meeting of the SMA Representative Assembly is scheduled to be held Oct. 28-29, 2022, in Regina.

Physicians have been resilient, and despite COVID challenges, we are optimistic for the future. Being optimistic, I hope that the peak of the pandemic has passed and overall we have endured.

Dr. John Gjevre, SMA president

The SMA has advocated for a stronger voice in the management of the health care system. We have had some successes, but during the pandemic, the physician community sometimes felt ignored.

Dr. Eben Strydom, SMA past-president

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