Health P.E.I. will spend a whopping $320 million this year to pay the salaries of doctors, nurses and other health professionals in Prince Edward Island
This makes up over half of the province’s total overall spending on health care, but Health Minister Doug Currie says this is simply the cost of providing health services to Islanders — especially to an aging population of Islanders.
“As you expand programs and services, you need clinicians, you need nurses, you need professionals to provide those services,” Currie said in an interview.
“That’s a costly part of the operations. You can’t add a program without hiring more staff.”
Currie tabled a detailed list of the salaries of all Health P.E.I. employees in the legislature. It does not name individuals specifically, but it does break down each and every employee by position title and number, the department or facility they work in, the position’s full-time equivalent status, the union they belong to and the salary range for each position.
Doctors are on the highest end of the pay scale, with cancer treatment specialists topping out with the highest salary at $312,100 a year.
Other physician specialists such as pathologists, psychiatrists and pediatricians are not too far behind, earning anywhere from $198,900 to $301,600 annually.
Family doctors are at the lowest end of the physician pay scale, but still take home salaries of $143,400 to $154,700 a year.
These salaries are also only base pay for doctors, most of whom make additional money through on-call retainers and by taking on shifts in hospitals, corrections facilities, nursing homes and walk-in clinics.
On the opposite end of the pay scale, housekeeping, food service and maintenance workers make the least amount of money, with salaries of around $34,000 a year.
Nurses fall within a variety of pay ranges, depending on their position classifications. Patient care workers earn a mid-thirties salary while licensed practical nurses make mid-forties. Registered nurses make upwards of $70,300 a year, and even more if they are nurse managers.
Other specialists such as occupational therapists, social workers, physiotherapists and radiation therapists earn mid-range salaries between $55,000 and $71,000.
Meanwhile high-level bureaucrats such as the CEO of Health P.E.I., executive director of medical affairs and the corporate medical director make over $200,000 a year.
Currie said he tables the salary listings in order to help the public better understand how their tax dollars are being invested in health care, which is the largest of all departmental budgets with over $619 million projected to be spent this year.
“I think it’s important that people understand that health care does cost,” Currie said.
“There’s a fairly intense cost to operate a health care system that has a range of competing demands — whether it be long-term care, or whether it be better access for surgery services, primary care, mental health and addictions — there are all kinds of competing pressures.”
He pointed out last year, Health P.E.I. was over budget by over $9 million last year as a result of the unforeseen pressures in the system.
“There’s all kinds of demand, and we must provide a level of services in the province… we’ve got high volumes of chronic disease here the province, so our focus is to manage that chronic disease with health care providers in communities to reduce the number of Islanders that become more sick and end up in emergency rooms and acute care beds,” Currie said.
He added health transfers from the federal government have been shrinking in recent years, while health needs of an aging population have been growing.
As for the level of spending on salaries, Currie says it’s expensive but a necessary and worthwhile investment.
“In order to attract health professionals we need to be competitive.