Skip to content

Hospital staff still mourning loss of local pathologist

Three weeks on from the devastating plane crash that killed local doctor Shekar Puttaswamy and members of staff at the Bonnyville Covenant Health Centre are still reeling from the loss of one of their “beloved” co-workers.
Staff at the Bonnyville Covenant Health Centre were shocked by the death of Dr. Shekar Puttaswamy on July 26.
Staff at the Bonnyville Covenant Health Centre were shocked by the death of Dr. Shekar Puttaswamy on July 26.

Three weeks on from the devastating plane crash that killed local doctor Shekar Puttaswamy and members of staff at the Bonnyville Covenant Health Centre are still reeling from the loss of one of their “beloved” co-workers.

Puttaswamy, affectionately known throughout the region simply as Dr. Shekar, was the chief pathologist at the Bonnyville hospital. He died on July 26 when his single man Cessna 182L plane crashed near Seibert Lake, roughly 70 kilometres northwest of town.

Having lived and worked in Bonnyville for the best part of a decade, Puttaswamy's death hit the community hard and last week Alex Smyl, administrator of the local hospital, admitted it had been a difficult few weeks for staff at the facility.

“I think it was just shock, everyone was shocked,” Smyl said when he was asked how he reacted to the news of Puttaswamy's death. “When we were first contacted and informed (of the crash), we were all still looking for him and wondering where he was. We didn't know this had happened yet.”

Puttaswamy's plane went down shortly after 7:30 p.m. on July 26, with officials at the hospital notified of his death over the course of the proceeding 24 hours.

Looking back on Dr. Shekar's time at the Bonnyville hospital, Smyl had only good things to say about the man he says touched the lives of everybody he met.

“Shekar was just a very genuine man, I think that's one of the most important things to remember. He was honest and just a good man,” Smyl said. “He was a good friend to everybody, he helped anybody he could at any time - it didn't matter to him. He has touched the lives of people all over the world.”

After completing his studies and getting his start in the medical field in the United States, Puttaswamy arrived in Bonnyville as a young doctor looking to make an impact on his new community.

“Shekar initially came to us as a green, brand new graduate pathologist with an education beyond anyone's wildest dreams,” Smyl said. “He was an extremely educated man, a very down to earth man – he was just your typical average joe. He was always telling people ‘I'm not a real doctor, my name is Shekar, not Dr. Shekar'.”

He added, “But he was just an extreme professional. To our knowledge, Shekar never ever made a mistake. He was a phenomenal individual, incredibly humble and he will be missed.”

With the loss of Bonnyville's one and only pathologist, Smyl admitted Alberta Health Services had already met to discuss the future of the region's pathology department. Having successfully lobbied the provincial health body last year to keep services in the community, Smyl said he hopes AHS will stick to their word of keeping pathology in Bonnyville and assist the facility with finding a new chief pathologist.

“We are really hoping and pushing to maintain the pathology department. I know AHS (met last week), so we'll have to wait and see, but we're hoping,” Smyl said. “I'm hoping we'll be able to find somebody to come in. I'm sure we'll find someone to replace him to do the work, but we'll never be able to replace the personality.”

In the meantime, all local pathology work is being shipped to Edmonton.

Moving forward, Smyl said he was hoping to set up a scholarship in honour of Puttaswamy, saying he was a man that strongly believed in the importance of education.

“We want to set something up to remember him for. Shekar was a good friend and he was a big advocate of continued education.” Smyl said. “Anything we can do (to commemorate him), I think we should do.”




Comments

push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks