December 10, 2023

Overwhelming demand has caused the Saskatoon Dermatology Centre to close its doors to non-urgent patients.

“We currently have about 3,000 patients on our waitlist,” Dr. Kyle Cullingham said. “Even with seeing up to 30 or 40 patients a day, we are still not able to meet the demand.”

The clinic is currently staffed by four physicians. Two are dermatologists and two are family doctors with enhanced skills in dermatology. The clinic serves most communities north of Davidson.

Cullingham said there are only four dermatologists in Saskatoon and five in Regina.

“We are all pretty much facing the same problems,” Cullingham said. “There is just so much backlog from the pandemic and even before the pandemic, it was very busy. At this point, it’s really just not ethical and we feel bad about accepting new, non-urgent patients if they are not going to be able to be seen for up to two years.”

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Cullingham said managing the demand for dermatologist services has been a problem for the seven years that he has been a practitioner.

“It really stems from a problem recruiting specialists, and in dermatology, we are certainly not alone. There are a lot of specialties in Saskatchewan that we don’t have the appropriate number of people doing the job, so there is more work for fewer people. Burnout is real.”

The new policy began at the Saskatoon Dermatology Centre at the end of August. The office is still accepting new referrals, but only for urgent conditions, including suspected skin cancers, melanoma, pre-cancerous lesions, full-body rashes, and drug reaction.

“We are not accepting routine like benign lesions, acne, rosacea, psoriasis, and eczema unless they are severe and require specialized care,” Cullingham said.

The centre is considering holding the policy in place until the end of the year and is hoping to catch up on its waitlist at the beginning of the new year.

In the meantime, Cullingham said non-urgent patients should look into options with their primary care physician, family doctor or nurse practitioner.

“Most family doctors, most nurse practitioners are capable of dealing with most skin concerns.”

He noted that many people are having a hard time locating a physician who is accepting new patients.

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“That is more of the major issue, that patients have no providers at all, so it stems from our health-care system being in a state of collapse. Most people really don’t have someone that they can access care from and that really is the most unfortunate part.”

Cullingham said that people have resorted to using walk-in clinics and emergency rooms to receive any kind of treatment.

“It’s unfortunate that we have had to go this route because really with patient care, with good sense, we can’t keep accepting patients if they are going to have to wait for two years plus. I would rather have them seek care somewhere or be referred to somewhere that can see them quicker.

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