Saskatoon doctors discuss their mental health: ‘We’re trying to do what’s best for our patients’

A group of doctors met with the president of the provincial association of physicians on Tuesday evening to discuss their mental health and wellness.

Around two dozen members of the Saskatoon Regional Medical Association met with Dr. Allan Woo, president of the Saskatchewan Medical Association and a surgeon, for the yearly meeting between the two parties.

Coping with the stresses of being a physician was a main focus of the talk.

“We’re trying to do what’s best for our patients,” Woo said.

“I’m a surgeon. I’ve had some complications, I’ve had successes, just like any other surgeon. And complications do wear on you. When a bad outcome or unexpected outcome occurs, physicians do take it to heart.”

Woo said things like patient expectations, managing a practice and balancing a busy work schedule with personal commitments can create stress for a physician. That stress, he says, can negatively affect how a doctor treats their patients.

He said it’s an issue across the entire country, not just in Saskatchewan.

But Saskatchewan doctors and their treatment of patients have been affected by poor mental health.

In the past year, two of the province’s four gynecological oncologists resigned, citing mental health as the reason.

Six replacements have been hired, but Woo says more work needs to be done to identify the causes of stress and to implement better coping strategies.

“We need to recognize our own stresses, be able to reach out to each other, be able to help each other without any kind of stigma or worry about any type of controversy,” he said.

The SMA has a physician support program but its only branch is in Saskatoon. Woo, however, says he hopes to have a second location within a year.

The talk is part of a 12-part tour across the province. It’s a chance for Woo and the SMA vice-president, Dr. Barb Konstantynowicz, to hear from the local members.

The SMA is a voluntary group and is the regional division of the Canadian Medical Association.

Issues raised on the tour can be discussed further and potentially voted on at a regional assembly of the CMA, which is held in November.

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