Quality of care at stake?

David Whalen
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Health Doctor says hiring lone OB/GYN in Stephenville is a mistake

A central Newfoundland doctor thinks Western Health's hiring of a lone obstetrician/gynecologist (OB/GYN) at the Stephenville hospital is a recipe for failure.

Western Health recently recruited five new specialists, including an OB/GYN for Stephenville's Sir Thomas Roddick Hospital. Dr. Steven Parsons, chief of obstetrics and gynecology at the Central Newfoundland Regional Health Centre in Grand Falls-Windsor, said a single OB/GYN servicing Stephenville will surely be overwhelmed and that the doctor should instead be put in Corner Brook, where they can service the western Newfoundland area.

A central Newfoundland doctor thinks Western Health's hiring of a lone obstetrician/gynecologist (OB/GYN) at the Stephenville hospital is a recipe for failure.

Western Health recently recruited five new specialists, including an OB/GYN for Stephenville's Sir Thomas Roddick Hospital. Dr. Steven Parsons, chief of obstetrics and gynecology at the Central Newfoundland Regional Health Centre in Grand Falls-Windsor, said a single OB/GYN servicing Stephenville will surely be overwhelmed and that the doctor should instead be put in Corner Brook, where they can service the western Newfoundland area.

"This is no disrespect to anybody down the coast or on the Port-au-Port Peninsula that could potentially access care in Stephenville. It has to do with the quality of care you're trying to provide people. One person working on a one-on-one basis cannot provide that care. That person would be far better served being a group of four. And the patients would be better served," Parsons said.

Parsons said it's likely the doctor, recruited from the international market, has little idea what they're in for and said he speaks from personal experience.

"I've seen this kind of revolving door thing happening in central Newfoundland for the last 15 years. We see guys recruited from overseas that come to work as one of two and they get burnt out and overworked," Parsons said.

Parsons said the trend is for foreign doctors to stay in small towns just long enough to earn their citizenship and then decide to move on to larger cities.

"They finish their Canadian exams and there's nothing holding them there. They typically go off to Ontario or somewhere else in Canada," Parsons said.

Western Health said it's not necessarily the case. Dr. Ken Jenkins, vice-president of medical services at Western Health, said the doctor has had a chance to tour the Stephenville facilities.

"We ensured he was comfortable and that we had full disclosure with the candidate to let him know what the situation was. Everybody's going into this with eyes wide open," Jenkins said.

Jenkins added that Western Health is actively recruiting a second OB/GYN for the hospital and that the second doctor may be hired within the next several months.

"We actually have had a second person in for an on-site visit," Jenkins said.

Jenkins said solo practioners are on a call-back, not an on-call schedule, which he said ensures they won't be overly taxed.

"If they're available to respond, then they would come in," Jenkins said. "That preserves and protects them from being in positions where they're overworked."

Parsons is unconvinced.

"It's a recipe for the same vicious circle we've seen in rural Newfoundland for the past number of years," Parsons said.

david_whalen@hotmail.com

Organizations: GYN, Western Health, Stephenville hospital Sir Thomas Roddick Hospital Central Newfoundland Regional Health Centre

Geographic location: Stephenville, Newfoundland, Grand Falls-Windsor Corner Brook Port Peninsula Ontario Canada

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