More physicians could leave the province if the government doesn’t do a better job listening to them, according to Doctors Manitoba.
"I really do feel for those who have left — and who are going to leave," association head Dr. Kristjan Thompson said Thursday.
He was reacting to news of yet another medical specialist stepping out a Manitoba hospital due to frustration with disjointed health-care reforms.
This week, Dr. Sandor Demeter announced his resignation from Health Sciences Centre’s nuclear medicine department, arguing it’s really Shared Health leaders who should be the ones leaving their jobs.
He said years of issues have culminated into "a dysfunctional bureaucratic quagmire" where patients wait too long for procedures because the system can’t address issues staff have flagged years in advance.
"I really do feel for those who have left ‐ and who are going to leave."– Dr. Kristjan Thompson of Doctors Manitoba
The doctor decried a years-long delay in replacing a specialized machine that scans early cancer patients, resulting in them missing the timeline to assess whether initial treatments are sufficient.
Demeter’s exit came just weeks after both a neurosurgeon and a neurologist opted to leave Manitoba over similar grievances.
He assailed the province’s management of health-care services in a lengthy online post, which the Manitoba Liberals raised in the legislature Wednesday.
On Thursday, Shared Health responded, saying it’s trying to deal with issues that have persisted in Manitoba for decades.
"While we acknowledge that the road toward a better health system has not always been smooth, we also note that many of the concerns expressed by Dr. Demeter are long-standing issues that existed prior to the creation of Shared Health, and have been exacerbated by a nearly two-year long (COVID-19) pandemic," wrote Shared Health spokesman Jason Permanand.
He explained the province is on track to upgrade its nuclear medicine services at HSC next year
"Work has been delayed, which is disappointing. However the plans continue," Permanand wrote. "Shared Health remains committed to working toward an improved, accessible health-care system that offers all Manitobans reliable and timely care."
Yet, Thompson said this won’t be possible unless the province listens to doctors.
"What we're seeing here is a symptom of a greater problem," he said Thursday. "Physicians who are leaving are physicians who are fed up… They don't feel that they're being listened to; they feel they can't provide the care to their patients to the best of their ability.
"Outreach efforts are starting to happen, but physicians really aren't feeling that in a meaningful way."
On Thursday, Health Minister Audrey Gordon thanked Demeter for his work, and insisted the province is listening.
"Our focus is to continue to talk to health-care professionals, doctors and specialists, and hear from them and address their concerns, and that's what we intend to do," Gordon told reporters.
She claimed to not know Demeter’s reasons for leaving his job — despite him outlining them in a 1,450-word online post and subsequent Free Press article — and said it's a human resources matter for Shared Health.
Dr. Anand Kumar, a respected intensive-care physician at HSC, wasn’t familiar with Demeter’s work, but said his hospital has always been loosely managed.
"The place has never been particularly tightly run," he said, comparing it to American hospitals where a profit motive dictates almost everything.
"Things seem rather disjointed in Manitoba, but I can't say that's tremendously different from five years ago or 10 years ago. It's just never been as sharp compared to other places I've worked."
Both Progressive Conservative party candidates for premier were too busy to give an interview Thursday.
Statements from Shelly Glover's and Heather Stefanson's respective camps said they would try to avoid doctors fleeing the province without specifying how, aside from listening to experts.