05/14/2014 05:20 EDT | Updated 07/14/2014 05:59 EDT

Winnipeg pediatric surgeon uses holidays to help out lone colleague in Saskatoon

SASKATOON - A pediatric surgeon from Winnipeg has been using his holiday time over the last few months to help out his lone colleague in Saskatoon.

Dr. Kris Milbrandt (MEL'-brandt) says he worries a child will die if Saskatoon's only surgeon for children isn't available.

Now the Saskatoon Health Region wants to hire Milbrandt.

Milbrandt says he's willing to move, but he won't unless the health region and the Saskatchewan government agree on a long-term plan for pediatric care.

He suggests Saskatoon needs at least three pediatric surgeons to ensure kids aren't sent elsewhere for care.

He says it would also balance workload and take pressure off other surgeons.

"In order to set this up properly and be sustainable, it can't be that we just come there to plug a hole."

Milbrandt is afraid because the one surgeon Saskatoon has can't be at the hospital all the time.

"Certainly the setting is there for something bad to happen," he said.

"I think it's only a matter of time (until) you have a situation where a child gets really sick or ill or has an issue ... (and) there's nobody around that can help them."

Milbrandt says he knows of children who have had to be transported out of Saskatoon for care. A nine-year-old girl had to be taken to Regina for emergency appendix surgery.

And, he believes, if he hadn't been helping out in the last few months, two babies would have had to be transported to Regina or Calgary "just because there was no way that (another) surgeon would have been able to deal with them."

The Saskatoon Health Region has confirmed it is looking to hire Milbrandt and hopes to have him in the city in July, but no agreement has been signed.

The region also said it is working with the Ministry of Health and other regional health authorities in Saskatchewan on pediatric care models.

Milbrandt said he understands hiring pediatric surgeons is not easy and it takes time. But negotiations are near the six-month mark.

"I'm not bitter at them. I'm not mad. I'm not upset at the way things have gone. I just want to see them do the right thing."

Milbrandt works in Winnipeg with five other pediatric surgeons. He said having a team allows for better overall care.

Milbrandt is originally from the Yorkton area and his wife, a family doctor, is from Saskatoon.


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