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Western Health filling the void after western Newfoundland's only cardiologist resigns on short notice

Rashleigh
Rashleigh - Submitted

There has always been a contingency plan for when the only full-time cardiologist in western Newfoundland goes on leave.

Now that Dr. Yahya Ismail has tendered his resignation while off on leave, that plan will be continuing for longer than Western Health had expected.

Ismail had been off on leave for about six weeks when he notified Western Health via email Feb. 15 that he would not be returning, the health authority confirmed Monday.

Dr. Dennis Rashleigh, Western Health’s vice-president of medical services, said in an interview that discussions are ongoing with Ismail to hopefully return for a three-week period in April to clew up his cardiology practice, but it has not yet been confirmed that this will be happening.

Normally, said Rashleigh, a physician provides a three-month notice when resigning so the doctor can appropriately deal with the physician’s patient list and arrange for their follow-up care.

“In an ideal world, we would have more notice and be able to plan over more time,” he commented.

Rashleigh would not provide any details of why Ismail is resigning or why he may possibly be unwilling to close up his practice in the standard fashion.

Rashleigh said Western Health will deal with Ismail’s patients if he doesn’t return to do so himself.

“If he doesn’t come back, we will need to have someone at Western Health go through his referrals and booked appointments, and triage and arrange follow-up to the best of their abilities,” said Rashleigh. “Obviously, ideally it’s best Dr. Ismail does it because he’s the person who arranged the initial tests or procedures.”

In the meantime, Ismail’s patients are being seen and managed by general/internal medicine specialists who have had extra training to deal with cardiac patients.

In addition, cardiologist, Dr. Mike Roy has agreed to come to Corner Brook every two weeks to do two-week locums until this summer.

The workload is also being helped out by Western Health’s radiology department, which is providing echocardiogram services previously provided by Ismail, passing on their interpretation to the attending physicians.

The extra work taken on by the internists and radiologists is the normal contingency plan in place for Western Health when its cardiologist is unavailable.

Western Health has recruited an internist with special training in cardiology who will start work in July and will take on much of the load left by Ismail’s departure.

Rashleigh said Western Health is also continuing to look for a non-invasive cardiologist, a recruitment effort that had begun before Ismail gave notice he was resigning.

Patients who require follow-up will have decisions made by the internists regarding whether their cases can wait for the visiting locum or if they need to be sent to St. John’s for more immediate care should their matters be an emergency or urgent.

“I can’t say there’s nothing, but I think there is very little we will need to send to St. John’s because Dr. Ismail is not available,” said Rashleigh.

Western Health is also availing of teleheath services and other technologies to get through Ismail’s absence.

The Western Star was unable to contact Ismail for comment as of deadline Monday.

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