Wedge also spoke about Prince County Hospital being near the end of its 'design life'
There is misunderstanding in the public over the roles Health P.E.I. and the provincial government play in health care, according to the Health P.E.I. board’s interim CEO Dr. Richard Wedge.
Wedge told members of the Summerside Rotary Club Tuesday that each has a specific role to play.
“The overall goal is to have a healthy population,” Wedge said. “You only have to do three things: You have to provide care, manage the health-care system and somebody has to pay for the health-care system.”
On P.E.I., health care is generally provided by physicians but that has been changing.
“The nurse practitioners, advance care nurses, our front-line nurses, our allied health professionals and even our housekeeping staff have a very important role to play in providing health care,” he said. “Health P.E.I.’s role is to manage the health-care system. P.E.I. government’s role is to pay for the health-care system.”
Wedge said each sector has its own responsibilities.
“The clinicians are responsible to their patients,” he said. “Health P.E.I. is responsible to the public, and government is responsible to the taxpayers... Obviously, these are the same people but they’re just wearing different hats at different times.”
Wedge said government faces a balancing act when it comes to funding health.
“Government has to decide how much money is going to be spent on health care? How much on education? How much to fix up roads? And they have to balance that with how much money they can expect from taxpayers.”
He said previous speakers at Rotary confused the responsibilities of Health P.E.I. and the province.
Health P.E.I. was blamed by one speaker for the proposed closure of two dialysis service centres on the Island, when in fact it was a decision of government. He said that decision was revisited and all dialysis services have been maintained.
Another speaker put the blame on the province for temporary closures of 24-hour emergency at Western Hospital.
“Health P.E.I.’s role is to manage the health-care system. P.E.I. government’s role is to pay for the health-care system.” Dr. Richard Wedge, Health P.E.I. interim CEO
Wedge said the closures of the Alberton hospital’s ER are the responsibility of Health P.E.I. He said the emergency department was closed because “we failed to find the positions to keep it open. So, both speakers were right, they were just confused as to who made what decision.”
Wedge also spoke about how the health-care system needs to adapt to the ever-changing needs of the public.
Prince County Hospital was designed in the late 1990s and “built for the time and projected for about 15 years. So it’s actually nearing the end of its design life at this point. Some of the assumptions that were made and the services that were provided are starting to separate from what it was designed for 15 years ago.”
He said the population of East Prince County has declined slightly, mostly through the loss of young people, so the mix of services offered by the hospital needs to be revisited.
“Ambulatory care was not expected to be as busy as it is now,” Wedge said. “The surgical floor is not quite as busy as it was. The emergency room department was designed for about 35,000 up to 40,000 visits (annually). It’s dropped off to about 25,000 as we have improved our primary care here in Summerside. So, a number of changes have occurred.”
Wedge said there are a number of possible solutions open to Health P.E.I. to meet the health care needs of the area.
One is a geriatric day hospital for treatment and sending patients home at the end of the day. Another is improving undergraduate education by using Prince County Hospital for students’ third and fourth years of study.
Others options include expanding ambulatory care and increasing the resources for ear, nose and throat surgery as well as urology.