North now devoid of last full-time surgeon, says Guisti

I am extremely dismayed at the BRHA's use of our hard-earned tax dollars to promote misleading claims. The BRHA ran fourcolour "announcement in relation to surgical services" quarter-page ads in the Thompson Citizen and Nickel Belt News using 817 of ourtax dollars. The ads are misleadingand send the wrong message. In the first 2 ads the BRHA noted "the departure of Dr. Susan Ghazali" (who happens to be my spouse). The BRHA failed to mention that with Dr. Ghazali's departure the North is now devoid of its last full time surgeon.

The claim that "the region has a core group of dedicated and competent itinerant surgeons" is cleverly written. The truth is these "itinerant" surgeons are not full time surgeons but locum surgeons who fly into Thompson a week or two at a time from as far away as Vancouver to make good money. They cost the taxpayers an arm and a leg. They are paid $2,000 a day (including weekends) in addition to flight, accommodation, car rental, etc.They also bill fee-for-service.The loss to the taxpayers will exceed a million dollars a yearto make up for the departure of Dr. Ghazali and Dr. Ismail Sardiwalla.

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Besides taxpayers, patients will also suffer. Continuum of care will be derailed. A patient can now expect to be seen by one locum surgeon, have an operation performed by a different locum surgeon and be followed up on by a third or fourth differentlocum surgeon. That is terrible but that is the price we must pay for the failure of BRHA management to retain their physicians.

Both Dr. Ghazali and Dr. Sardiwalla were competent and skilled surgeons who understood the needs and culture of the North and aboriginal community. Dr. Sardiwalla served the north for seven years and Dr. Ghazali served for four. They were stayers who were determined to serve the North and its people. No price tagcan purchase this cultural understanding. Their departure is devastating.

Furthermore to the misleading ads, two of the "skilled and competent itinerant surgeons" have their privileges restricted, meaning they are not allowed to perform all the operations that are expected offully qualified and skilled surgeons like Dr. Ghazali and Dr. Sardiwalla. I pity patients who must undergo laparoscopic surgeries when these surgeons are on call. They either have to switch surgeons, fly to Winnipeg orsuffer pain and agony till the next "competent and skilled" surgeon covers a week or two weeks later.

The claim that "one surgeon has accepteda position...and is expected to permanently join the BRHA early in 2011" is misleading as the elderly surgeon who is currently working in the United Arab Emirates has yet to start his six-month mandatory assessment for International Medical Graduates.

When Gloria King took over in March of 2005, the BRHA had two full-time surgeons and two full-time pediatricians. Two years later, the BRHA has none. Also, at the time the BRHA had 34 full time physicians. According to FIPPA, 10 months later only 23 full time physicians remained. In Gloria King's first 13 months in office nearly 40% of the full-time physicians handed in their resignation (FIPPA).

When Minister of Health Theresa Oswald was grilled in the legislature by the opposition on the BRHA's failure to provide a full-time pediatrician for 20,000 children last May, she noted the BRHA had 24 full-time physicians. That is a net loss ofnearly 30 per centof doctors since Gloria King and Dr. Hussam Azzam took over helm at the BRHA. This includes all new recruits that BRHA management has been bragging about.

While the BRHA may have the provincial treasury to blow as much of our tax dollars as they deem fit, at least we patient and consumer advocates still have a free press. BRHA management must admit that they have failed and failed miserably.

Hussain Guisti


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