News Local

Community rallies for Dr. Mahdi

Lori Penner

About 20 people held a rally in front of the Altona Clinic on Feb. 12 to protest a decision to terminate Dr. Taseen Mahdi’s practice at the clinic. The protesters say Mahdi is an excellent, caring physician and they demand to know why he was asked to leave. A petition has also been set up in the doctor’s honour which has already surpassed 690 signatures.

About 20 people held a rally in front of the Altona Clinic on Feb. 12 to protest a decision to terminate Dr. Taseen Mahdi’s practice at the clinic. The protesters say Mahdi is an excellent, caring physician and they demand to know why he was asked to leave. A petition has also been set up in the doctor’s honour which has already surpassed 690 signatures.

ALTONA - 

Crystal Kehler says she didn’t know what kind of response she’d get when she organized a rally in front of the Altona Clinic on Feb. 12. In the end, about 20 people showed up with their signs and their enthusiasm, eager to join the cause, in spite of temperatures hovering around minus 20 C.
They gathered to protest a recent decision by the Altona Clinic to dismiss Dr. Tahseen Mahdi.
After three years of service at the Altona Clinic, the administration has asked Mahdi to close out his practice by March 10.
Clinic manager Artan Fetahu says it was a collective decision among the 15 staff members and administration at the clinic to let Mahdi go.
“We have decided that Dr. Mahdi is not a good fit to practice with us at this point,” he says. Fetahu would not elaborate on any particular incident or concern that led to their decision, except to add that there were some internal issues, and the doctors and staff decided, in the interest of the clinic, this is the best way to proceed.
Fetahu says while Monday’s  rally was an inspiring example of community spirit, it won’t turn things around. “Our decision is final.”
Dr. Mahdi, who is originally from Baghdad, Iraq, studied medicine in Britain and immigrated to Canada in 2009, completing his exams with the Medical Council of Canada.
He joined the medical team in Altona in 2014. At the time, Mahdi said he was delighted with the town, and has since put down roots and purchased a home in the community.
Mahdi’s personable approach quickly gained the trust and respect of many clinic patients. Since Dr. Dieter Bueddefeld’s retirement in December 2017, numerous requests have been made that Mahdi become their new family doctor.
The clinic was without the services of Dr. Mahdi from September to the end of December while he served out the remainder of a six-month suspension handed down by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Manitoba for an incident surrounding an altercation with a physician in a different community prior to his arrival in Altona. The clinic would not comment as to whether they knew about the incident before Mahdi joined the local medical team.
His patients were told that he would return to his practice in January. He was presented with his termination shortly after his return.
Since news of the termination was announced, many of his patients have been reaching out to Mahdi, and calling the clinic, asking why he was dismissed, and wondering if anything can be done to keep him there.
Kehler was one of them. “I really don’t think that it’s fair that he’s being pushed out of there. He’s a great doctor and we don’t want him to go. We’re hoping this decision can be reversed and he can stay.”
Along with Monday’s rally, Kehler also began an online petition on Feb. 9. Within hours, the signatures climbed to 200. As of press time, they’ve reached 692.
“I figure if we can reach 1,000 signatures, that’s a quarter of the population of our town. How can they say no after that?”
The petition includes a place for comments, and Kehler says there are dozens of them, each a heartwarming testimony to the care Mahdi has given to the people of the community.
“We’ve had so many doctors come and go in this town, and so many I’ve seen, not  just  for my care but for my kids, as well. Dr. Mahdi is the first one I really connected with. I feel like he actually cares. He doesn’t just throw medication at you. He takes the time to listen to what you have to say. If I wasn’t feeling well, he would drop everything and say come on down, and if I was upset, he’d hold my hand and let me cry. That kind of bedside manner is so hard to come by these days. He’s been there for us, so we need to be there for him now.”
Kehler wants to encourage people in the community to express their opinion about the decision and take a stand. “People don’t realize they have a voice. I just feel like he’s been treated unfairly, and the more I talk to people, the more I realize I’m not the only one who thinks that. We want to see him stay here. There’s got to be some kind of precedent to keep him here. There’s gotta be.”
If you want to sign the petition, go to change.org and search for Let’s Keep Dr. Mahdi in the Altona Clinic.