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

Ryan Ross rross@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on August 11, 2014

Dr. Desmond Colohan

©Guardian photo by Heather Taweel

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.”