CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. - There are more than 15,000 Islanders without a family doctor, according to Health Minister Robert Mitchell.
Mitchell acknowledged this number in response to questions posted by Opposition health critic Sidney MacEwen.
During question period on Wednesday, MacEwen asked why the number of Islanders on the patient registry grew from 8,408 to 11,822 in just over two years. The patient registry is a list of individuals who do not have access to a family doctor.
In response, Mitchell stated the province has seen the departure of three physicians in recent years. He suggested that there are 3,800 patients awaiting a doctor in the absence of these physicians, in addition to the 11,822 currently on the patient registry.
"Two have retired and one has left the province, which leaves us with an additional 3,800 patients that are not on the registry but are not associated with a doctor," Mitchell said.
"When physicians leave or retire, it seems to be better to keep those registries together. It becomes easier to recruit physicians to take on all of those individual patients."
A spokesperson from the province confirmed there are currently 15,622 Island residents without a family doctor, including both patients of the three physicians and those on the registry.
Most Islanders on the registry live in Queens County, at 9,075. Prince County has 2,739 on the registry, while Kings has eight.
In response to further questions from MacEwen, Mitchell stated 45 people on the registry got a family doctor last week.
Mitchell also said 92 per cent of Islanders had access to a family doctor, which is above the Canadian average of 84 per cent.
Mitchell also said Health P.E.I. plans regularly update numbers of patients on the registry on its website. These will be divided by region.
Mitchell said the province will continue its efforts to recruit physicians to the Island.