Regina physician closing practice as health-care workers continue to experience burnout, frustration
'I need to breathe and heal from too many years of trauma': Dr. Tomi Mitchell
Dr. Tomi Mitchell says she has put everything she can into her medical practice, but that everyone has a breaking point.
The family physician announced she was closing her Regina practice, Pasqua South Medical Clinic, in a letter she wrote to patients on Feb. 27 and posted on social media on Tuesday.
"I need to breathe and heal from too many years of trauma," the letter says.
"Unfortunately, from my perspective, the way in which health care is delivered, and the current pandemic, and all the complications that have arisen from it — I have been forced to pivot."
It goes on to say, "The past two years with the pandemic have really exposed cracks in the system [and] I fear some of the cracks are beyond salvageable."
Speaking with CBC News, Mitchell described the last two years as "roller-coaster, marathon, sprint, triathlon."
Mitchell noted that many health-care workers have been openly expressing the burnout and frustration they've been experiencing throughout the pandemic, but many feel their concerns and recommendations are falling on deaf ears — especially now that restrictions are being lifted in most of the country.
"Why are we waving the white flag like this is over when it's not, at all?"
Last week, 44 more COVID-19 deaths, which happened from Feb. 20 to 26, were reported in Saskatchewan, bringing the total for February — up to that point — to 143 deaths. That number already makes last month the third-deadliest of the COVID-19 pandemic in the province.
"We are exhausted and we feel like we're not being listened to and we're being taken for granted," Mitchell said.
"There's only so much you can give until you physically, financially, mentally — all of the above — cannot give anymore."
Mitchell said many health-care workers felt their concerns were not being heard even before the pandemic, and that people in need of vital health-care services continue to suffer as a result.
"It breaks my heart to see what's happening."
'Increased threats to our physical and mental safety'
Mitchell said the abuse many health-care workers have faced is another reason she's closing her practice.
"It has made me question what I've really been questioning for years — is this really what I signed up to do?"
She felt a sense of unity among people during the early days the pandemic, she said, but then it suddenly disappeared.
Many health-care workers have since been the targets of harassment, while several protests have taken place at or near hospitals around Canada, including in Saskatchewan.
Mitchell said there have also been "increased threats to our physical and mental safety."
"At what point do you draw the line? Do we enable this abuse to continue or do I say enough is enough?" she said.
On top of that, she said the clinic has been understaffed for years and is dealing with a pay reduction from the government, even though expenses have increased.
"I am going to act as an individual and say, 'No, I have done my part. I have tried. I have been creative but this is not sustainable.'"
Mitchell said her decision was not easy, especially given the relationships she's developed over the years.
"I have been grieving this day for over a year because I knew it was coming," she said. "I hoped it didn't have to come to this point, but it did."
Mitchell's letter said she's going to focus on her health and family moving forward.
Other health-care workers moving on
Dr. Kevin Wasko, an executive with the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA), announced in February that he's leaving his senior position with SHA to work as an emergency room doctor in a Toronto-area hospital.
He told Morning Edition's Stefani Langenegger in February that fatigue was a factor in his decision.
Wasko said there's a lot happening behind the scenes that goes unnoticed.
Health-care leaders have been busy making plans for an understaffed system, he said, while trying to support colleagues and encourage resilience.
He also cited a disconnect he felt between the province and SHA, along with ongoing waves of misinformation, as reasons he's leaving his position.
"We're frustrated when we hear people in the community rejecting the science, or saying that the protections that are in place are tyrannical or, you know, impeding their freedoms and their rights," he said.
In early December, SHA CEO Scott Livingstone resigned suddenly for reasons still unknown.
With files from Samanda Brace, The Morning Edition