Health minister promises action on recommendations in addictions report to be released in coming weeks
© Guardian photo by Heather Taweel
Prince Edward Island Health Minister Doug Currie
Health Minister Doug Currie says the time for talk and study on addictions is over — it’s now time for action.
Currie has faced tough criticism in the last few weeks over long waiting times for mental health and addictions services and a lack of treatment options for Islanders struggling with these diseases.
The Opposition Tories have raised concerns regularly in the legislature, and earlier this month, a protest was staged in front of Province House, with more than 100 people calling for more supports and treatments for Islanders with addictions.
Currie says he hears their concerns and is taking action.
He plans to release a list of recommendation from the chief mental health and addictions officer, Dr. Rhonda Matters — a list he says he will act upon immediately.
“We’re not waiting for months and years to respond to this issue. We’ve done enough talking, we’ve read enough reports, the time now is for implementation and action,” Currie said.
On Friday, Opposition health critic James Aylward once again challenged Currie on the issue — this time on why a new advisory committee struck to advise Matters has not yet had one meeting.
“Mental health and addictions is a very serious issue on P.E.I. We know, we’re hearing from Islanders on a daily basis how serious it is. But yet this committee that is supposed to be helping this chief officer bring forward recommendations has not even met,” Aylward said.
“These recommendations that you announced last week will be forthcoming in the next two weeks, how can you trust that they’re what needs to be done when this health officer hasn’t even found the time to meet with the experts?”
Currie explained that Matters has spent the last five months meeting with frontline staff and stakeholders to get a real understanding of all the issues. He also has had weekly meetings with Matters to get briefings on her progress.
As for the committee not meeting, conflicting schedules are to blame and a meeting will happen soon.
But Aylward said Currie’s explanations sounded more like excuses and rhetoric, accusing government of not doing enough to provide people in P.E.I. with adequate mental health and addictions treatment.
“How can you look Island families in the face and tell them that we’re not going to wait for action any longer when you are continually the minister of inaction?”
Currie fired back, forcefully reiterating that he plans to move forward on tangible actions and investments.