03/07/2013 01:57 EST | Updated 05/07/2013 05:12 EDT

Saskatchewan facing pediatric neurologist shortage as one of two doctors leaves

REGINA - Children who need to see a pediatric neurologist in Saskatchewan may have to be sent out of province because of a doctor shortage.

One of two pediatric neurologists in Saskatchewan will leave in September and the Saskatoon Health Region still hasn't been able to replace another who left about 18 months ago.

"Certainly it's not the ideal situation that we want to see the province in or Saskatoon Health Region," Health Minister Dustin Duncan said Thursday.

"I know that they are currently recruiting, trying to fill a couple of vacancies now with this new vacancy that's come up. I understand that they've identified a couple of candidates and that they're going to be going through that process, so we're hopeful that they can fill those spots but it's a speciality that is hard to fill."

Duncan said there aren't a lot of medical school training seats for pediatric neurology across Canada.

Dr. Laurentiu Givelichian, the head of pediatrics for the Saskatoon Health Region and the University of Saskatchewan, says around 500 children are on a waiting list to see a pediatric neurologist.

"The more urgent ones are going to be (filtered) and they are going to be seen with two or three months, but the others ones that are deemed to be less acute, they, of course, are going to be seen later, up to two years waiting period," said Givelichian.

Givelichian said he is travelling outside Saskatchewan on March 18 to try to recruit one doctor and was confident the spots could be filled.

"The number of trainees in this type of program is coming up quite a bit, so there are going to be few pediatric neurologists available for employment in the near future," he said.

"So, yes, the answer is that I'm quite optimistic."

Duncan said other doctors may be able to help the children, but some may have to be sent to Alberta if pediatric neurologists can't be found.