Sun Country Health Region welcomed three new faces to the boardroom on Wednesday, May 30 when the directors met for a regular monthly business session.
Gary St. Onge of Estevan, Audrey Trombley from the Midale area and Robert Brickley from Kennedy took their places for the two-hour open business session that followed an all-morning in-camera assembly. The three newcomers had just been appointed to the board by the health minister a few days before the recent provincial cabinet shuffle.
Newly appointed chairwoman Marilyn Charlton from Weyburn steered the agenda to a conclusion with former chairwoman Sharon Bauche being the only absent member for the inaugural run of the new-look board.
The meeting was uneventful insofar as the agenda items created very little discussion around the table, but Trombley broke the ice by asking if Sun Country was on the hunt for more surgeons. She said she saw there were gaps in operating room schedules that could probably be filled if there were more surgeons and surgical teams available.
Interim CEO Marga Cugnet replied that surgeons are definitely on the recruitment “wanted” list for Sun Country to fill the schedules at Weyburn General Hospital and St. Joseph's Hospital in Estevan.
The new board members were informed that medical appointments to active and resident staff rosters are granted for one year only, with each doctor needing to be re-appointed on an annual basis or in the case of locums, for the desired periods.
With that in mind, the board approved the appointment to associate (active) staff category to Dr. Kofi Amu-Darko, a general practitioner in Estevan to the end of February 2013 which is the same as for Dr. Medhi Hori, an anesthetist, in Estevan.
Dr. Dragon Golobovic was appointed to resident staff category for a period of May and June of this year.
Temporary staff category appointments were granted to locums Dr. Raphael Ajayi and Dr. Di Naidu with those appointments expiring at the end of February 2013.
The new board members learned that their orientation session will take place on June 18 and all three stated they would be available for the daytime session.
The board members also ratified the latest contract proposal that was worked out between the province and the Saskatchewan Union of Nurses. The agreement, if signed, will give nurses a two per cent lump sum payment in lieu of a wage increase for the period April 1, 2012 to March 31, 2013 and a two per cent wage increase, on April 1, 2013. There will also be a specific wage grid which rolls the previous $6 per hour nurse practitioner premium into the wage rate for the practitioners.
During her report to the directors, Cugnet said improvements are being made in scheduling processes, attendance supports and workplace safety, which helped reduce wage driven premium and injury costs. She said Sun Country had met its target and that these statistics were monitored by the Ministry of Health since it impacted premium pay (overtime) and Workers Compensation Board claims and lost time days.
It was also noted by Cugnet that the newly launched STARS helicopter air ambulance system made its first Saskatchewan mission to the Sun Country region when they transferred a critically ill patient from the Arcola Health Centre on May 1.
“The transfer was a success with the co-operation of the Carlyle RCMP and Arcola Fire Department who established a temporary landing zone and secured it for the aircraft just south of the health-care facility in an open grassed area,” the CEO stated.
Cugnet also noted that Telehealth services continue to expand in the region with recent additions to the network being Newhope Pioneer Lodge in Stoughton and the Weyburn Special Care Home. The remaining sites that will have Telehealth capabilities in the future include Moose Mountain Lodge in Carlyle, Lampman Health Centre, Estevan Regional Nursing Home and Sunset Haven in Carnduff.
The interim CEO reported that during the mid-April to mid-May period, Sun Country had hired 13 registered nurses, seven of them being recent graduates; two licensed practical nurses, one addictions counsellor and one manager. There were four senior assists (third year nurses) hired for summer.
The resignation list was shorter, with just four RNs leaving, along with one plumber.
Cugnet also said a number of recruitment initiatives were being pursued with a first-year medical overseer program and four mentoring (medical residents), all in Weyburn, coming aboard during the past month.
“There are currently 14 mentorship pairings in the health region and the co-ordinator is working on a June mentorship workshop,” said Cugnet.