More doctors needed

Published on February 8, 2016

Wade MacLauchlan

©Submitted photo

A grassroots advocacy group will release a report Thursday on changes it says are needed in the P.E.I. health care system.

The Eastern Kings arm of Islandwide Hospital Access has scheduled a public meeting for 7 p.m. at Souris Regional High School. Storm date is Feb. 25.

The report deals with wait times at emergency rooms, patients without doctors, need to restructure Health P.E.I., need to restructure the College of Physicians and Surgeons into a Maritime college as well as other aspects of the health care system.

Alan MacPhee, chairman of the Eastern Kings group, said the local concern is that there are simply not enough doctors at Souris Community Hospital.

He says Souris has been reduced to a complement of four doctors, but are operating with just two, leading to a loss of services at the hospital as of this month. With 3,585 people per doctor, MacPhee says it is the highest ratio in the province and twice the provincial average of 1,491 people per doctor.

"While the crisis in Souris is extremely important and has negative implications on access in Montague and Charlottetown, we have to look at the greater failure which is the structure and delivery of health care on P.E.I.,'' MacPhee says.

"We met with Health P.E.I. last February and our concerns over doctor access were ignored. Now we are in crisis. There are four-hour waits for emergency service in Montague and seven- to eight-hour waits in Charlottetown.''

A spokeswoman with Health P.E.I. said they have not seen the report and cannot comment at this time. However, Health P.E.I. did provide a statement in regards to the physician complement.

"We can say that we continue to actively recruit to fill the physician complement in Kings County and are exploring opportunities to make the best use of the resources we have to meet the needs of patients in Souris and Montague,'' the Health P.E.I. statement read.

MacPhee says there is a lack of accountability, deliverability and collaboration in Health P.E.I. and things need to change.

Souris Mayor David MacDonald calls the situation inexcusable.

"We have had this inexcusable situation in Souris for over a decade and it's time to get it fixed,'' MacDonald says. "The premier has promised four doctors in Souris and we expect him to make that promise come true sooner rather than later.

"We simply can't afford to be in crisis any longer and it isn't fair to the people in this area.''

MacPhee says government has responded to the area's concerns before, citing things like Islandwide dialysis, maintaining acute bed service, maintaining laboratory and diagnostic services and increasing ambulance coverage.

Winnie McKie, a member of the seniors' federation, says things need to change.

"Ambulance and physician access has been a big issue for seniors across P.E.I. and especially in this region,'' McKie said.

Anne MacPhee, chairwoman of the Eastern Kings community council, said the deterioration of health care services has a detrimental effect on rural P.E.I.

"It is difficult to attract population growth when access to family physicians and basic health care is being gutted,'' Anne MacPhee said.

The advocacy group has invited Premier Wade MacLauchlan to Thursday's meeting as well as Health Minister Robert Henderson and Cardigan MP Lawrence MacAulay.