Members of Saskatchewan Health Authority’s (SHA’s) Maternal and Children’s Provincial Programs visited northern Saskatchewan in July to get a first-hand look at services provided in La Loche, Buffalo Narrows, Ile a la Crosse and surrounding areas. The purpose of the tour was to better understand the scope of maternal and children’s programs and services available in each community with a focus on improving access to care.
Carrie Dornstauder, the executive director of Maternal and Children's Provincial Programs, said the group is part of the SHA Provincial Programs portfolio, which supports the theme of provincially strengthened, but locally delivered care. “It’s about building standards in a resourceful way and then reducing the variation and gaps across the province by support and resources for local site delivery of care. Given the strong level of engagement from staff and the willingness of the mothers to share their stories during our visit I am very confident in our ability to develop a plan that will work for the patients served by these communities.”
Carrie Dornstauder and Dr Laurentiu Carrie Dornstauder and Dr. Laurentiu Givelichian pose in front of the La Loche Friendship Centre following a meeting with mothers and community members in La Loche.
Dr. Laurentiu Givelichian, provincial head, Department of Pediatrics, Saskatchewan Health Authority and University of Saskatchewan, called it “extremely eye-opening. Visiting with the communities and the front-line staff really brought home the reality to me of the services today in these centres and it gave us a different perspective on how to envision and plan for better health services.”
He said the tour has given him a much better understanding of what pediatricians and sub-specialists can do to support care providers in northern communities.
Givelichian had previous contact with northern health care providers as a consultant, giving medical advice on patient care through remote technology. Remote technology serves a useful purpose because it enables the local physician or practitioner to work with a specialist at another location, such as Saskatoon, to treat a patient with a unique challenge, particularly in crisis situations. Trials for clinical implications are underway and show this technology can significantly reduce the number of visits a northern patient needs to make to Saskatoon or Prince Albert.
Dr. Reid McGonigle, a physician at St. Joseph’s Health Centre in Ile a la Crosse, told the tour group that while the robots used in remote technology are “cool and have been used successfully, nothing can replace the face-to-face relationship with a patient.”
Meeting in La Loche Members of the Ile a la Crosse community and local health care providers meet with members of the Saskatchewan Health Authority’s Maternal and Children’s Provincial Program.
The group also discussed the number of specialist visits to the North as well as a desire to invite a team from the La Loche Community School to Saskatoon to review social pediatric programming which enables students to access the services of pediatricians and supporting services (e.g. optometry, audiology, speech language pathology) in their schools without a referral.