West Prince residents keep up pressure for 24-hour hospital

Eric McCarthy
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Committee will work towards helping find physicians to cover Western Hospital

Natasha Dunn was an organizer of Thursday’s forum on emergency services at Western Hospital.

ELMSDALE – West Prince residents who didn’t get a chance to sign a petition while heading into a forum on emergency room services at Western Hospital were lining up to do so afterwards.

The forum, which was held Thursday night at Westisle High School, attracted 175 people, almost all of them from West Prince. The petition they were signing simply read: “We, the residents of West Prince request the Province of Prince Edward Island and Health P.E.I. to commit to the ongoing, long term, 24/7 access to ER (Emergency Room) services with full physician coverage at Western Hospital.”

The audience gave the 11-person committee that organized the forum the mandate to work towards solutions to the physician availability issue which has resulted in repeated ER closures at Western.

Moderator Bob Lockhart suggested if the committee cannot get government’s agreement on identified solutions, then another meeting can be called.

To start things off, Alberton-Roseville MLA Pat Murphy read a statement from Health and Wellness Minister Doug Currie, offering his commitment to maintaining services at Western Hospital.

“My priority is to have consistent, safe, stable, health-care services for all parts of the province,” the statement read.

“We know that the current situation is not ideal, so we’re looking for solutions, both long-term and immediate.”

He said Health P.E.I. has had numerous discussions with the local physicians and there are alternate shift schedules that might work better.

Murphy added his own thoughts to the discussion, stressing that he is confident in government’s commitment to the hospital's ER. If he were not, he said, he would be leading the challenge to get such a commitment.

“They said in August that we wouldn’t be closed, and here it’s January and we have been closed 12 times. That’s a deep concern of mine.” Natasha Dunn

PC MLA Hal Perry said he has been accused of fear-mongering on the Western Hospital issue but he countered that government caused the fear with its announcement of 12 dates in January that the ER would be closed.

Natasha Dunn, one of the organizers, acknowledged Currie’s assurance that, after January, locums are available and should address any shortfall until the end of April, but she wonders what about after that.

“We need our service in West Prince,” she stressed.

“They said in August that we wouldn’t be closed, and here it’s January and we have been closed 12 times. That’s a deep concern of mine.”

“We need to put pressure on government to make sure our ER stays open,“ Dunn said following the 85-minute forum. “If they hadn’t had this much pressure, I think government would have been sitting back holding their breath, hoping that no one really noticed.”

Dunn said the meeting at least gave residents the opportunity to have their say.

Another of the organizers, Rosetta Tremblay, said she was pleased to see a good cross-section of West Prince coming together to fight for Western Hospital services, but she said she’s disappointed they got no real answers.

"They’re saying they can’t get the doctors. Well, what I’m hearing is they can get the doctors. Pay them.”

Organizations: Western Hospital, Health P.E.I., Westisle High School

Geographic location: West Prince, Prince Edward Island

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Recent comments

  • here's hoping
    January 18, 2013 - 14:06

    It's only a matter of time before they close your ER for good just like they done in souris, i hope you have better luck in keeping the ER open than we had up on this end of the island GOOD LUCK. it wouldn't suprise me if Montague ER isn't in the line of fire soon also

  • centralize services in pei
    January 18, 2013 - 14:06

    PEI cannot afford having 5 hospitals. 1 hospital is enough. We also need fewer schools. We also need to stop maintaining low-use roads. Just close them and seed them over.

  • northport
    January 18, 2013 - 12:11

    When the hospital can't deliver a baby in the middle of the night during a snowstorm i think it's time to change the name on the building!!!!!

  • Brandy
    January 18, 2013 - 11:17

    I realize the people in Alberton and Tyne Valley want to keep their own hospital, but its time to get practical and only have one. That would free up staff and doctors It's a fact of life that changes need to be made and while everyone may not agree, its time.

    • Part-time Islander
      January 18, 2013 - 18:21

      Commentor Brandy said if perfectly. Centralize the services and use the few, very valuable resources in the most efficient and EFFECTIVE manner possible. The time has come. Two well-equipped and staffed hospitals for the approx. 144,000 people on PEI would have better outcomes than the current system. Trying to offer more than is possible doesn't provide good care. Maybe reviewing and thinking about the latest Fraser Institute report on the standard of care in all the provinces would be the best use of people's time. PEI did not fair well in regards to outcomes and I think it is because of the current structure with too many locations trying to provided health care.