Hundreds of Islanders without family doctor after Dr. Joyce Madigane's death

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Nancy MacPhee
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Health P.E.I. is compiling list of names to refer to new doctor

Dr. Joyce Madigane

SUMMERSIDE — The impact of the loss of Dr. Joyce Madigane is far-reaching, as hundreds of Tyne Valley and area residents are now left without a family physician and wondering what to do next.

Madigane, who practised medicine in the Tyne Valley area for nearly 40 years, took leave from her clinic in January and died Feb. 6 of cancer.

Marilyn Barrett, director of primary care and chronic disease with Health P.E.I., said the hope is to hire a new physician for the Tyne Valley area in the coming months.

“Recruitment and retention have made the West Prince area a priority. We are talking with other physicians. We have done a couple of web interviews this winter with physicians who are interested in coming,” said Barrett. “Pending the outcome of that, we arrange for a visit. We are arranging for a couple of visits and we’ve been securing locum coverage as much as possible.”

But, she added, having a new physician in place to take on Dr. Madigane’s practice could take some time.

“We do have a couple of people that are interested so we are pursuing any and all leads.”

In the meantime, Dr. Ihab Abdelmelak, located at the Tyne Valley Health Centre, is seeing some of Madigane’s patients and locum physician, Dr. Andres VanZyl, is working out of the clinic part-time and taking same-day appointments for the remainder of February and for the month of March.

Barrett added, “Of course, we have to direct patients to walk-in clinics or emergency rooms for more urgent conditions if they are not able to get in with Dr. Abdelmelak.”

The closest walk-in clinic and ER are located in Summerside, about a 30-minute drive away.

Barrett said Madigane’s patients, estimated to number around 1,000, are encouraged to put their name on the provincial patient registry, joining the more than 8,300 other Islanders without a family doctor.

Barrett was not sure what the average wait time is for a patient seeking a family doctor.

“It varies. I couldn’t really say. I do know that we are in the process right now of going through review of the patients on the registry and contacting folks,” she added. “There is still a physician with capacity in the West Prince area and we are offering that individual to people.”

With Madigane’s passing, there are currently 2.5 physician vacancies in West Prince. The complement for the area is 12.

Barrett said the family physician complement for the province is about 90. There is only one other family physician vacancy outside West Prince and that is in eastern P.E.I., she noted.

She said most family physicians on the Island have a patient load of between 1,000 and 3,000.

Barrett did admit that having an additional 1,000 Islanders added to the long list of those on the patient registry is worrisome.

“At the same time, we are not sure that is an accurate number. Lots of times when we call people they have already found a family physician,” she added. “They just don’t remember to call us back and let us know.”

She also admitted recruiting and retaining physicians to rural P.E.I. has been problematic in the past.

“It is a combination of a number of things and we are not at all unique. The same problem exists all across Canada. Some of it is quality of life. In the rural areas, physicians tend to have to work shifts in the emergency room at community hospitals. They may be on call more often, so that tends to be a challenge,” added Barrett. “It is somewhat better now that it is not 24-hour emergency room shifts. That was a real barrier to recruiting to the rural areas. Since we have gone with the EDs closed overnight, that’s made a big difference.”

To enter a patient's name on the registry, call 1-855-563-2101 or complete an application form online at www.healthpei.ca.

Organizations: Tyne Valley Health Centre, EDs

Geographic location: West Prince, P.E.I., SUMMERSIDE Tyne Valley Iceland Canada

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