Oncologist recruitment questioned in P.E.I. legislature

Teresa Wright
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Health Minister Doug Currie says recruiting oncologists to fill two vacancies at the P.E.I. Cancer Treatment Centre is a top priority. Dr. Dagny Dryer is scheduled to retire at the end of this month, which will leave only one oncologist practising in P.E.I.

The Opposition Tories are raising concerns today about the imminent retirement of one of P.E.I.’s two remaining cancer specialists, especially in light of P.E.I.’s high rates of cancer.

Dr. Dagny Dryer is scheduled to retire at the end of this month. That will leave only one oncologist practising in P.E.I.

During question period Wednesday, Opposition MLA James Aylward asked government what is being done to address this problem.

“I just don’t really understand the lack of urgency on this file,” he said.

“The amount of Islanders needing treatment certainly does not seem to be declining, actually it’s increasing every year.”

But Currie said this is so serious concern for him, it keeps him up at night.

“I want to reassure everyone in the legislative assembly that this is a huge priority,” Currie said.

“Not that any of the other recruiting areas are not important, but this is the No. 1 recruiting area.”

He said a number of interviews have been held over the last several weeks and months with oncologists as Health P.E.I. has been working to fill the two vacancies at the Cancer Treatment Centre.

Currie said he hopes to fill these vacancies soon but if not, Health P.E.I. does have a contingency plan.

Aylward pointed out, given the fact Dryer is set to retire in less than two weeks, it is unlikely a new oncologist will be found in time.

That’s why he pressed the minister to answer whether government will cover the travel costs of cancer patients forced to travel off-Island for treatment.

After question period, Currie told reporters locums will be brought in and associate oncologists are being trained to help the one remaining cancer specialist while Health P.E.I. continues to work to fill the vacancies.

He does not expect patients who do not already have to travel off-Island for cancer treatment will be forced to do so.

Organizations: Health P.E.I.

Geographic location: Iceland

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Recent comments

  • what a mess
    April 18, 2013 - 15:19

    Since we are paying for treatments travel, surgeries, and to travel and stay in another province for health treatment then shut it down here and let Halifax or Moncton or Saint John manage our health dollars and let our QEH hospital go the way of the dinosaur. Good way to attract new Islanders and maintain the population. Who wants to come to a place that can barely manage the essentials Try travelling when you are ill. It can be costly and a a nightmare. .

  • chiming in
    April 18, 2013 - 13:11

    I think Person living with cancer makes points. IMO we need caring, compassionate types for doctors. It can make a world of difference esp when facing a monumental foe such as cancer. A decent and authentic bedside manner goes a long way.

  • Person living with cancer
    April 18, 2013 - 10:51

    Dr. Khan left PEI in late summer, 2011, and he has never been replaced. It has been well known for many months now that Dr. Dryer will be retiring at the end of April. That leaves us with Dr. Philip Champion who has a rating of 2.1 out of 5 on www.rateMDs.com. Have a look at some of the comments on him!! Disgusting!! My doctor is in Halifax, and, no, the government does not pay my travelling expenses.

  • Concerned
    April 18, 2013 - 10:45

    "He does not expect patients who do not already have to travel off-Island for cancer treatment will be forced to do so"... Funny that just this week I had to take my mother to Halifax, where she will now receive treatment and is now a patient of the Doctor over there because she is losing hers here... She will now have to travel and pay each time to do so.... How many more patients will follow?? So this statement is either a blatant lie or someone has not done their homework. Disgusted how this is being handled.

  • RN
    April 18, 2013 - 09:12

    Why the hell do we have a teacher in charge of health? No offense is intended to any of our amazing Island teachers - I am so grateful for what you do, day in and day out. I work in healthcare, I have been a critical care nurse for 22 years. Those 22 years wouldn't begin to prepare me for a job as Minister of Health. What exactly has the minister learned in his teaching days at Birchwood that prepped him to take on the role of Minister of Health? Perhaps we should have people fill these rolls that at least have an idea of what goes on in the health care system in the run of a day. Peoples lives are at risk here and this government doesn't seem to have a clue what it is doing. One oncologist for close to 140,000 people. That sounds like a human rights issue to me.

  • Reality check
    April 18, 2013 - 08:13

    P.E.I. must educate and reimburse tuition for islanders to become doctors for their roots are here and they are most likely to stay after a 5 year contract. Doctors and surgeons do not want to come to P.E.I. Why with their expertise and choice of any location choose P.E.I. with its lack good schooling to graduate levels ( in order to get a doctor or law degree their children would have to go off island UPEI only offers undergraduate courses), no entertainment (theatre, symphony, opera or ballet season) and very few decent restaurants outside of Ch'town. P.E.I. is a lovely island, but offers little to entice someone to starting a career and raise a family here.

    • Staggering
      April 18, 2013 - 09:59

      Your attitude of self entitlement is staggering. Remember President Kennedy's quote that is still heard and repeated today??? "Ask not what your country can do for you...ask what you can do for your country"

  • Whaaaat
    April 18, 2013 - 08:13

    WE live within a 12 hour drive from how many MAJOR cities Canadian and American im talking millions and millions of people that all live and breath just like u and me, think about how many cars that would equate to, and homes, as well as business's and industrial areas, agricultural chemicals defiantly don't help, but its more so in the air we breath from the sheer amount of people located in the same general location, look at how the Jetstream travels it dips into the states before us in terns dragging all that pollution 220 kms an hour via the Jetstream right overtop of us so let them cut more and more trees between us and them without re-planting anything its our only defence against the Rise of worsening air, which yes, Trees do help and not that there isnt a vast amount of forest still as well as being surrounded by water not saying that it don't help, but with it being thrown overtop of us its bound to have an affect, hence why u see so many people with breathing related problems its in the products we eat, we use. its almost quite literally impossible for us located where we are to have any effect on lowering deaths from Cancer without the right staff so yes this Doctor should've been thought of before his retirement what did he just come out last week and tell someone, should've been a contract and ud think they would've had one, and with it know that it was going to happen well in advance, so its just another failed attempt at making the liberal government look as tho their doing a good job when really this was a promise made to us years ago that we wouldn't have to fear not having the right staffing to accommodate our people especially when it comes to health care

  • SG
    April 18, 2013 - 07:01

    I was shocked to read this Report given that Minister's Currie's previous statement on this subject. If this is such a serious concern that it is keeping Min. Currie up at night how many Cancer Patients do you suppose are losing Sleep and will continue to loose sleep after reading this Report? Why does our Gov. have Millions to Celebrate PEI's Confederation but can't provide a qualified Oncologist re: Dr. Dwyer's retirement given the huge number of Islanders requiring Cancer treatments? My Cancer journey has been a very positive experience thus far, mainly due to our Cancer Centre Staff and our two Oncologists. They are THE BEST any Cancer Patient could hope for and each and every one would go the extra mile any time it is needed including our Volunteers! To even imagine our Cancer Patients travelling off Island for Treatment and Care is Unbelievable! I don't believe a 100th Celebration is necessary or a priority for Islanders at the expense of $ Millions. However, I do know that a Qualified Oncologist Has Been and Still is a Priority. Our Gov. needs to review the Applications received from Oncologists and Hire One immediately. Minister Currie stated: “He does not expect patients who do not already have to travel off-Island for cancer treatment will be forced to do so.” (He Does Not Expect patients will be “forced” to travel off Island for Treatment!) Why Should Islanders NEED to Travel off Island for Cancer Treatment when we have a Cancer Centre Right Here in Ch’town? Our Gov. knew Long Ago Dr. Dwyer was retiring. How long have they been looking for a Replacement?

  • Tom Paine
    April 18, 2013 - 06:28

    PEI is clueless on how to recruit doctors here... this was true of the prior government as well. (remember the doctor who disappeared after one night?)

  • Tired of listening
    April 18, 2013 - 05:45

    Can anyone spell r-e-s-p-e-c-t? OK, how about practicing it? Seriously, if you disagree with one's politics can you at least keep your comments to the issue and not attack the person? VERY poor examples in the legislature. Since when is personal attacks and negative comments about the person acceptable. Why is this tolerated? Stick to the issues folks. Mudslinging is an ugly, very immature practice. No person, no party, can be and do everything for everyone. Is our health care system perfect? Of course not...but it is a heck of a lot better than the majority of the rest of the world. Ask a mom in Africa who walks 20 hours carrying a child, then waits hours in the blistering sun because she heard there is a clinic that may help....sometimes we forget how good we have it.

    • Tired of Listening Too
      April 18, 2013 - 10:02

      I agree with your post 100%. Thankfully the posts on these comment strings only represent a "small" portion of PEI. "Small" being the operative word!

  • don
    April 17, 2013 - 22:14

    where is our doctor for every islander that your master said he was going to get us back in 2007? now you come up with more lies to cover up the liberals screw up.

  • johnny cash
    April 17, 2013 - 18:12

    I now understand why they are called ministers. We pray every time they try to do anything logical because it is usually the inverse.

  • I wonder
    April 17, 2013 - 17:42

    If PEI could get another oncologist who said they would practice in a rural hospital would Currie keep one of them open-just so he could sleep at night

  • Anonymous
    April 17, 2013 - 17:16

    Hard to take the PC party seriously when they complain about the deficit one day and then they show up the next asking the government why they ahve no poured in mor emoney in a department like health,

  • johnthames
    April 17, 2013 - 16:49

    We live in a cancer province in large part due to poor lifestyles and agricultural chemicals, I don't think anyone telling the truth could deny this. As to Currie, he looks rather well fed, and certainly is not a good role model for healthy living. PEI is on it's way down and out, too many politicians who don't have a clue, a bureaucracy made mediocre by years of patronage, and a debt we can not pay. Please tell me again why we deserve to be a province? And can we afford to remain one under this failed leadership?

    • Bob from Cardigan
      April 18, 2013 - 08:06

      Definitely JohnThames. PEI is becoming a failed province quickly, almost a banana republic. This is a huge issue, and I think you are right about the poor lifestyle and chemical links. No one wants to talk about it though do they? Here is common sense for you. You want people to be active and physical, yet you add a new tax to all sporting enrollments and running shoes. Makes sense doesn't it?