After working nearly every day for 13 years, Dr. Christopher Giede doesn’t really know what to do with all of his free time. He plays the electric guitar and feeds his pet sheep, but he can’t stop worrying about his cancer patients.
Those concerns creep into his dreams: “Are his patients being cared for in his absence? Do they feel he abandoned them?”
In September, the 55-year old gynecologic oncologist went on medical leave.
“I’m physically unwell and can’t carry the load anymore,” Giede said, during an interview at his home near Saskatoon. “There has been a lot of psychological stress in the past couple years, and that has not helped with the physical stress.”
The situation in Saskatoon is being repeated in other smaller cities across Canada.
Kingston, Ont., and Sherbrooke, Que., for example, have had a difficult time recruiting and retaining gynecologic oncologists, especially in the midst of a national shortage due to retirements, disability leaves, international competition, and growing demand from an increasing patient load, according to the Society of Gynecologic Oncologists of Canada.
Specialists are often drawn to departments in major centres with larger teams and more resources. In both Calgary and Winnipeg, for example, there are five gynecologic oncologists on staff and each is only on-call every fifth weekend. In Toronto, 21 specialists share the workload.