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Summerside man recognized for bringing virtual health care to rural P.E.I.

Dr. Wassim Salamoun, left, holds the plaque honouring his co-worker Paul Young at Summerside city hall on Oct. 13. Salamoun read the citation awarding Young the mayor's Medal of Honour.
Dr. Wassim Salamoun, left, holds the plaque honouring his co-worker Paul Young at Summerside city hall on Oct. 13. Salamoun read the citation awarding Young the mayor's Medal of Honour. - Alison Jenkins
SUMMERSIDE, P.E.I. —

Two years ago, Paul Young was facing a doctor shortage that was about to disrupt patient care at the Western Hospital in Alberton.

In August 2018, after just 89 days, Young managed to roll out a tele-rounds pilot project to connect patients with physicians using a secure video connection and software.

“It wasn’t because we wanted to, it was because we had to – for our patients and for the community,” said Young.

On Tuesday, Young was awarded Summerside’s Mayor’s Medal of Honour for his work.

“Our teams, through an inspiring degree of commitment, rallied behind this project not only for what it could do – for the service stability for the Western Hospital – but the sheer idealism that if it actually worked, they would have an active role in creating a new support system for health care for other rural jurisdictions nationally and internationally,” he said, speaking in Summerside council chambers.

Young wasn’t alone in his efforts as he explained in a 2018 interview with the Journal Pioneer. More than 25 people worked hands-on to bring it to life and more than 100 people contributed to the process.

The tele-health project was made possible with digital connectivity, a collective will to solve the doctor shortage and a collaboration with Maple, “a young, scrappy, Canadian health care technology company”, said Young.

“It seemed impossible, but like Nelson Mandela so famously said, ‘It always seems impossible until it’s done’.”

Paul Young wears his new Mayor's Medal of Honour at the city hall ceremony Oct. 13. Joining him are his daughters, Mila holding the large plaque while Brielle holds the smaller one. Standing with him are his wife Erika, left, his mother, Alice Young and Noreen and Jerry Gavin, Erika's parents.  - Alison Jenkins
Paul Young wears his new Mayor's Medal of Honour at the city hall ceremony Oct. 13. Joining him are his daughters, Mila holding the large plaque while Brielle holds the smaller one. Standing with him are his wife Erika, left, his mother, Alice Young and Noreen and Jerry Gavin, Erika's parents. - Alison Jenkins

In a career highlight, Young travelled to Vietnam to participate in a G-40 health care summit in 2019 to speak about the tele-rounding program and how he and his team managed to implement it so quickly.

He later heard the World Health Organization refer to his project as “the novel Canadian innovation” and praised its help in stabilizing health care globally.

“We certainly never intended to reach these heights, though, we just wanted to fix our problem permanently,” Young said at Tuesday’s event. “As a team, we were committed to thinking differently, to doing differently. In the end, we decide to try at all costs. … We learned quickly perseverance was key.”

Young’s wife, Erika, along with daughters Brielle and Mila, his mom, Alice Young, and Erika’s parents, Noreen and Jerry Gavin, were all included in Young’s heartfelt thanks.

His voice became strained with emotion as he addressed his daughters directly.

“It all started with believing in just one big idea and then finding the courage and the will to make that idea work.

“And when you do it, it won’t be easy. But often the hardest things in life are the ones worth doing. Your Grandpapa would often tell me that.

“So, never give up, believe in yourself and those around you, and you’ll find there’s always a way. You may not always see it at first, sometimes you’re not meant to. Stay the course and it will show itself over time.

“I also found, and for you girls to know, that it’s important to allow yourself to believe in things that are bigger than yourself. Dream big, dream often and dream without limits. You’ll be surprised what you can accomplish when you put your heart into it. And when you feel like giving up, as we all do from time to time, Wassim and I certainly had our moments along the way, you turn to others who will lift you up and in turn you will lift others up. Together, anything is possible.”

Councillors took turns commending Young on his accomplishments, including Arlene Gallant-Bernard, chief executive officer of family and community medicine, Community Hospitals West and Provincial Renal Program, and Dr. Wassim Salamoun, medical director at the Prince County Hospital, Community Hospitals West and the Provincial Renal Program, who Young named as his mentors on the project.

Coun. Brian McFeeley said the accomplishment is a testament to his hard work, particularly since the government in his experience “wasn’t particularly famous for encouraging innovation”.

“I know for a fact how passionate the residents are up there when they feel like they’re losing something significant, like the hospital, so congratulations on being so innovative and really saving Western Hospital,” said Cory Snow used to work in West Prince.

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