Saskatchewan

Sask. Health Authority to take 'all hands on deck' approach to opioid therapy physician shortage: minister

Two doctors who handled 700 opioid substitution therapy patients are no longer offering their services, and one physician has been hired to fill the need. The provincial Opposition is calling on the government to do more to address what it calls a crisis.

NDP says 1 physician handling 700 opioid therapy patients is a 'recipe for disaster'

Minister of Health Jim Reiter says the decision to remove two opioid therapy physicians came from the College of Physicians and Surgeons. Now, the provincial health authority is taking an 'all hands on deck' approach to finding solutions, he says. (CBC News)

Saskatchewan's Opposition NDP is calling on the government to address a physician shortage in Regina that it says could put people fighting opioid addiction at risk.

Two doctors who handled 700 opioid substitution-therapy patients are no longer offering their services, and one physician has been hired to fill the need.

During question period on Thursday, NDP mental health and addictions critic Danielle Chartier called the shortage a crisis, and said the physician hired to fill the gap is also responsible for recruiting on top of her other duties.

"It's a responsibility of the government to have a plan in place, but the current set-up is a recipe for disaster," Chartier said in a news release.

"There's a significant risk of relapse when treatment isn't available — this is people's lives in the balance."

The province's minister of health said the decision to remove them from their duties came from the College of Physicians and Surgeons.

Opioid substitution therapy involves treating people fighting addiction with another, prescribed drug such as methadone.

Health Minister Jim Reiter agreed it is concerning that only one doctor is now responsible for handling 700 patients.

But he said the doctor's recruitment efforts will also help manage her caseload. He said the Saskatchewan Health Authority is looking at all possible options to address the situation.

"They're going to take, kind of, a team approach to this and councillors and nurses will be helping out as well," Reiter said.

"It's going to be an all hands on deck approach until we can get more prescribing physicians up and running."

With files from Kendall Latimer

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