April 27, 2022

News release: SMA survey reveals impact of pandemic on Saskatchewan’s physicians

A majority of Saskatchewan physicians who responded to a Saskatchewan Medical Association (SMA) membership survey feel their mental health has worsened after two years of the pandemic, their jobs are less satisfying, and their voices haven’t been heard in the pandemic response.

Physicians are also concerned about the health of patients with non-COVID needs, according to the online survey, which was conducted in February 2022 and drew almost 400 responses from SMA members.

Asked to rate their mental health now compared to before the pandemic, almost 49% said it was worse and 17% responded much worse, while 30% said it was about the same.

Meanwhile, 74% responded that medical practice is less satisfying than usual (21% said it is about as satisfying as usual). Overall workload since the pandemic began had increased a great deal (26%) or increased somewhat (30%), respondents said, while 54% indicated they intend to reduce their clinical hours in the next two years.

“The survey reflects what I have been hearing from many physicians – that they have been working harder during the pandemic and their mental health has suffered,” said SMA president Dr. Eben Strydom. “The results are worrisome. Physicians need supports now more than ever as the pandemic is still with us. Case numbers driven by COVID-19 variants continue to place strains on physicians and all health care workers. Those strains are reflected in the survey results.”

The survey asked physicians to indicate their level of concern about issues that may have arisen during the pandemic. The top concern of respondents is a lack of physician voice in the pandemic response (76%), followed by concern for the health of patients with non-COVID needs (60%), concern for their own or their families’ safety and health (43%), poor communication (42%), and feelings of less connectivity to their colleagues (42%).

“Physicians feel their expertise and advice has not been valued during the pandemic,” Dr. Strydom said. “Health leaders should listen to physicians, implement policies and procedures that provide optimal care for both their COVID and non-COVID patients, strengthen channels of communication, and foster collegiality among health care workers,” he said, adding he is grateful to physicians for expressing their opinions.

“Saskatchewan’s physicians have spoken, and they are saying that medicine has been affected by the duration and persistence of the pandemic, and its impacts on the health system.”

The results are worrisome. Physicians need supports now more than ever as the pandemic is still with us. Case numbers driven by COVID-19 variants continue to place strains on physicians and all health care workers. Those strains are reflected in the survey results.

Dr. Eben Strydom, SMA president

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