Regina radiologists want health minister to fix 'growing crisis'

Regina Qu'Appelle Health Region terminated what the Radiology Associates of Regina calls a long-standing contract on Dec. 1, 2015.

Minister refuses to step in, saying he won't 'dictate terms to either side'

Radiologists are responsible for the diagnosis of serious diseases and illnesses using x-rays, ultrasounds and MRIs. (Krystalle Ramlakhan/CBC)

Regina radiologists say there is a growing crisis in the the health region that is affecting patient care. 

Radiology Associates of Regina (RAR) and the Regina Qu'Appelle Health Region (RQHR) are in an ongoing contract dispute that started in May of 2015. 

That was when the health region informed Radiology Associates it was terminating its contract as of Dec. 1, 2015.

Since then, the radiologist represented by Radiology Associates of Regina have been working without a contract, it said in a news release. 

This is causing concern for some radiologists, who say contracts are integral to keeping radiologists in the region.  

"It's going to be quite difficult for us to compete with other places. I think in the end the patient care is going to suffer and the wait lists are going to go up," said Dr. Raj Patel. 

Radiologists in Regina, including Dr. Andrea Gourgaris and Dr. Raj Patel, are in the midst of a contract dispute with the Regina Qu'Appelle Health Region. (Brian Rodgers/CBC)

However, the health region maintained in November that there was no formal contract.

"There was no written contract in place for this work, though one was implied," said RQHR President and CEO Keith Dewar said in November.

At that time Dewar said negotiations has been difficult because RAR wants to maintain exclusive rights to radiological services in the health region, where it prefers to negotiate contracts with individual radiologists instead of the group.

But RAR says that arrangement was part of a successful retention and recruitment program and it has lost eight radiologists in the last 22 months. Two of those lost were specialists, it said, including the region's only neuroradiologist and theoracic radiologist.

"This is believed to the largest loss of radiologists from any hospital in Canada," the release said adding it will create longer waiting lists in hospitals and community clinics. 

Health region responds

On Tuesday, the RQHR responded in a press release saying that their radiologist numbers remain strong, with 20 radiologists with in-hospital privileges working in Regina.  

RQHR challenged the RAR's claim that it lost eight radiologists. Instead RQHR said that just six radiologists have moved out of province, resigned or retired in the past 22 months, and the region has gained two in that period as well. 

It also said that the health region hasn't received any additional formal notices from radiologists indicating intentions to leave so far this year.

The health region said in the release that the confusion over numbers is "placing our patients at risk." 

Health minister asked to step in

The radiologists are calling on Health Minister Dustin Duncan to intervene and "immediately re-establish the previous contractual relationship with the local group of radiologists." They met with him yesterday. 

"The Wall government must act to make sure RQHR is living up to its responsibility," Dr. Andrea Gourgaris said. 

However, Minister Duncan said he won't intervene in the dispute. 

"I don't think it's my role at this point to step in and, you know, dictate terms to either side," Duncan said. 

"I just think that a better solution is they just sit down, re-evaluate their positions and try to hammer out some sort of at least an agreement in the short term to ensure that services continue."

Gourgaris responded to Minister Duncan's refusal, saying it's extremely disappointing. She said the radiologists were coming to him as they feel they have no other options. 

"I feel like we really need someone to step in and help the situation before we lose more people and more programs which are critical for good comprehensive patient care," Gourgaris said. 


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