Ponoka doctor cites need for better ‘work-life’ balance as reason for leaving

Dr. Gage Seavilleklein wants more time with family after deaths of colleagues

Correction: Dr. Joe Myburgh was a general practitioner in Sylvan Lake.

Several Ponoka physicians have made an exodus in the last year, for various reasons, and now another Ponoka physician is leaving, citing the need for a more balanced work-life balance.

Dr. Gage Seavilleklein sent a letter out to patients on Aug. 31 informing them that he is closing his practice in Ponoka, effective Dec. 23, 2020.

“This is a decision that I did not come to lightly and was perhaps the most deliberated decision of my life,” said Dr. Seavilleklein, (known as Dr. Gage) in the letter that was posted on Battle River Medical Clinic’s (BRMC) Facebook page.

The clinic was already short-staffed for physicians, after Dr. Emma Curran announced in April that she would be leaving her practice at the end of June to pursue specialty training, and Dr. Paras Satija closed his practice at the end of August, pointing to provincial cuts as the reason.

Dr. Brendan Bunting retired in December, 2019.

“The importance of this decision was driven home by the recent deaths of my colleagues Drs. Myburgh and Reynolds,” said Dr. Gage in the letter.

Dr. Walter Reynolds was killed on Aug. 10 at the Village Mall Walk-in Clinic where he worked.

Dr. Joe Myburgh was a general practitioner in Sylvan Lake.

READ MORE: Widow of slain Red Deer doctor thanks community for support ahead of vigil

Dr. Gage goes on to explain that the main factor in his decision is that the time commitments in Ponoka are “too great, and are impacting my ability to be the father and husband I want to be.”

He says that in his first five years in Ponoka, he alternated between 70 and 90-hour work weeks, and that in the last three years, since his daughter was born, he’s only been able to scale that down to about 60 hours a week.

“This has not provided me with the work-life balance I feel I need to ensure I don’t continue to miss important moments and memories in my family’s life … I am forced to change where and how I practice.”

Dr. Gage says he has “deeply enjoyed” his time in Ponoka, serving the community as part of a team of health care professionals.

“I believe that collectively we deliver top-notch quality of care, given the resources we have access to.”

That hardest part of leaving is no longer serving the patients he’s come to know.

“Most of all, I will miss seeing you, my patients,” he said.

“I will forever cherish the laughs and tears we have shared as we tackled your health-related issues.”

Dr. Gage added that BRMC is still “aggressively trying to recruit physicians” to Ponoka.

After Dec. 23, Dr. Gage’s patients can make appointments through the daily access clinic to gain access to all the same health services as before, including Primary Care Network resources.

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