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Health P.E.I. using private physiotherapists to fill gap in service

Physiotherapists from You Move Physio in Alberton, Amy Irving, left, and Kathleen O'Meara, are providing services, under contract with the provincial government, at Western and Community hospitals for one year.
Physiotherapists from You Move Physio in Alberton, Amy Irving, left, and Kathleen O'Meara, are providing services, under contract with the provincial government, at Western and Community hospitals for one year. - Eric McCarthy

ALBERTON - A private physiotherapy service provider is helping to fill a void for physiotherapy vacancies at two West Prince hospitals.

You Move Physio in Alberton entered into a one-year contract with Health P.E.I. in December to provide physiotherapy services to in-patients at Western Hospital in Alberton and Community Hospital in O’Leary until vacancies are filled.

Amanda Hamel, a communications officer with Health P.E.I., said Health P.E.I. was having difficulty filling the vacancies at the two hospitals to the point that it issued a request for proposals from private providers willing to help out in the interim.

You Move Physio responded to the RFP and was awarded the contract, providing 16 to 20 hours of in-patient care per week.

Geoffrey Irving, who owns You Move Physio with his wife and physiotherapist, Amy Irving, can identify with the challenges Health P.E.I. is having filling the vacancies.

He said the business had been looking for a second physiotherapist for about a year and a half before filling the position last September.

It is only in having a second physiotherapist on staff that the business was able to respond to the RFP, he said.

“For us, it was to bridge the gap,” said Hamel, pointing to the need to provide patients with physiotherapy services in a timely fashion.

She indicated Health P.E.I. is continuing its recruitment efforts and said the union representing hospital physiotherapists is supportive of the provincial government applying to the private sector for assistance.

Amy Irving, left, and Kathleen O'Meara, physiotherapists at You Move Physio assess a client at the company's Alberton clinic. The clinic has also entered into a contract to provide in-hospital services at Western and Community hospitals for a year while the provincial government works to fill vacancies.
Amy Irving, left, and Kathleen O'Meara, physiotherapists at You Move Physio assess a client at the company's Alberton clinic. The clinic has also entered into a contract to provide in-hospital services at Western and Community hospitals for a year while the provincial government works to fill vacancies.

Paul Beauregard, business rep for the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 942, which represents in-hospital physiotherapists, confirms that the union gave its OK to look to the private sector as a temporary fix, but he says it’s disappointing the situation has come to this.

“It is a situation where they have absolutely no one to fill the positions currently,” he said.

“We don’t like to see health services being privatized,” he added, but agreed it is critical that patients who require physiotherapy receive the service as soon as possible.

“We have been trying to address this issue for several years now, and it is falling on deaf ears.”

Beauregard said government has to get more competitive as a lot of people are finding the private sector a lot more attractive through a combination of wages, benefits and the scheduling of working hours.

Hamel said government is considering how best to respond to the shortage, including possibly offering to sponsor physiotherapist students.

Beauregard agrees that has been an effective strategy within other disciplines in the health-care sector.

He said government has to look at a variety of strategies to help attract physiotherapists, especially to rural areas.

Irving said his wife had worked in physiotherapy at Community Hospital for five years and did relief work at Western Hospital prior to opening a clinic.

Providing clinic and in-hospital coverage, he said, is a matter of scheduling, but he admits it’s been busy.

“Just with the girls working extra hours, we haven’t had to sacrifice any clinic hours.”

Much of the in-hospital work that Amy Irving and Kathleen O’Meara provide, he said, is scheduled to coincide with nurses and occupational therapists working in the hospitals.

Even if the hospital positions are filled before the contract is up, Irving anticipates You Move Physio’s services will still be required while the new recruits transition in.

He said there are provisions to extend the contract if vacancies persist.

wbureau@journalpioneer.com

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