P.E.I.'s only full-time pain specialist retiring

Ryan Ross
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Dr. Desmond Colohan

As P.E.I.’s only full-time pain specialist gets ready to retire, Dr. Desmond Colohan says he still thinks there is a need for his type of service.

Colohan, who is the only doctor working out of the province’s pain management clinic in Charlottetown, has been seeing patients one day a week as he winds down his clinical work, which ends Aug. 19.

With his clinical work almost wrapping up after more than seven years, Colohan said once he retires, he expects the province to make due until something falls in its lap, which is what happens with other specialties in P.E.I.

“That’s being somewhat cynical but that’s been the experience,” he said.

At its peak, the pain clinic managed about 500 patients, but Colohan said when he started it there was a three-year wait for initial assessments.

That dropped to two months for non-urgent initial assessments.

Those initial assessments take three hours with follow-up appointments that can take 30 or 40 minutes.

Colohan said the government should recruit a full-time pain specialist to replace him because P.E.I. needs one, but he thinks the chances of that happening are slim, in part because there aren’t many of them out there.

“The demand well exceeds the supply,” he said.

A statement from Health P.E.I. said wherever possible Colohan’s patients will be referred to other health-care providers for continued care, including two doctors who provide part-time pain management services.

Meanwhile, Health P.E.I. is in discussions with a doctor from Nova Scotia about providing pain management services as a visiting specialist.

The statement described those discussions as “high level,” although nothing has been defined or confirmed.

“We are very much committed to ensuring Islanders continue to have access to health care services they need here on Prince Edward Island where and when possible,” the statement said.

Colohan said the province should think outside the box when it comes to pain management services and develop a network of primary pain clinics around the province using nurse practitioners.

P.E.I. could also connect with a network of clinics in Nova Scotia that are linked with a pain specialist in Halifax, he said.

“I think that would be helpful because it would give the primary care providers a security blanket for working with complicated chronic pain patients.”

As for his own work over the years, Colohan said it’s hard to quantify how much of an impact he has had, but thinks, in general, people he has worked with are happier.

“I have no way of assessing it except the patients say thank you.”



Organizations: Health P.E.I., Islanders

Geographic location: Prince Edward Island, Charlottetown, Nova Scotia Halifax

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Recent comments

  • Chris
    October 30, 2014 - 18:43

    I am a pain clinic patient in PEI.. I am with Dr. Whalen.. It SUCKS to see Dr. Colohan go.. it took just over a year.. yes, a year for me to get into Dr. Whalen.. as his clinic is only open 1 day a week. That is just too long for people in serious pain. Dr. Whalen also isn't a pain specialist.. he's an ER doc who just cares about hurting people, and saw that there was a big need for another pain clinic in PEI. Dr. Colohan was also, as far as anyone can tell, the only doctor who would actually sign MMPR documents on the island. I'm in a situation where I can either take 18 pills a day (which don't work) or I can use cannabis, which works tremendously, to the point where I don't need to use any pills at all, but none of my doctors will sign for MMPR.. one of them is ok with me using cannabis "if it works" (which it does).. but he won't sign for it.. so they'd rather me do something illegal, but successful, than sign a piece of paper (which they are allowed to sign, according to health canada and the government of canada.. they are just afraid of what their medical association might think of them. How does this make any sense.. I'm ranting now.. All this was to say.. Dr. Colohan will be missed.. he wasn't my doctor, but I wanted him to be.. sadly he was retiring when I was getting my referral, so my doc wouldn't refer me to him. He is a doctor who puts the patient first, and thats what all doctors should do.. not put the association first.

  • You will be missed
    August 12, 2014 - 07:38

    I personally am not a patient but my boyfriend is and I must say this doctor has made an TREMENDOUS impact in the quality of life for him. His pain is now managed with non-narcotics. Both my boyfriend and I are ecstatic about that! My boyfriend was battling back pain for 3-4 years and constantly being prescribed percs and oxy's which was ruining his body and quality of life. Dr. Colohan changed that and I will be forever grateful. PEI is losing one of the tools we need to combat over prescribed pain medications. Which is a shame. I hope that the government doesn't drag its heels when replacing Dr.Colohan. Especially since PEI is in an epidemic of abuse of prescription medications.

  • Lorna Vanderkaay
    August 11, 2014 - 11:07

    Wishing you all the best thank you for your great advice and help in the past thank you!!!!!

  • Lorna Vanderkaay
    August 11, 2014 - 10:55

    Thank for all your great advice and heIp in the past, you will certainly be missed. Wishing you the best thanks again!!