© Guardian photo
Health Minister Doug Currie walks to Province House April 17, 2013.
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.