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LETTER: P.E.I.’s family physician shortage has ill consequences

P.E.I. will experience a funding shortfall of $156 million in federal health care funding over the next 10 years.
(File Photo)
Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Charlottetown, P.E.I. — Bill McGuire

There has been a physician shortage in P.E.I for as long as the letter writer can remember.

When the concept of social justice is applied to health and health care, the term resources is taken to mean not just direct services but also other facets of life that can have a positive effect on health.

However, direct services are crucial to survival. The health care system in Prince Edward Island has failed to provide proper resources for residents.

There has been a physician shortage in P.E.I. for as long as I can remember. My father has been on a wait list for a family physician for eight years.

Now a senior, his health has further declined. He not only suffers from heart problems but also lives with prostate cancer and gout problems. For the last eight years he has been relying on different walk-in clinic doctors to prescribe his medications.

Four months ago, an on call doctor prescribed a medication for him that contradicted with his many other daily medications.

How could have this been avoided?

With a family physician, a full kept history, and knowledge of the patient. This is an issue that is not only happening to my father, but many other residents.

A confused resident, my father does not understand why the system is letting him down. After all, it must be his fault his physician retired. Fove years ago, I told him that the system is good and they will find him a doctor and perhaps they just needed time to resolve the physician shortage in P.E.I.

It was one year ago that I got a different perspective on our health system. I began to contact Health P.E.I. through emails and phone calls. My emails were often ignored, and when they returned my phone calls they informed me they would "contact" me as soon as possible.

I waited months for them to contact me again. I repeated this process over and over again a number of times and am still waiting; my father may not be able to wait any longer.

I wish I could say his case is the only one, but it is one of many in this waiting game. I remain disappointed at the difficulty of these steps to contact Health P.E.I.

Health Canada's role is to help Canadians maintain and improve their health. Although the provinces and territories are responsible for delivering healthcare to the majority of Canadians, the federal government also has responsibilities in areas where it affects health and health care.

The government is supposed to work closely with provinces and territories in order to help Canada become a healthy country. It seems that this notion has been ignored in P.E.I.

Many people have not had a family physician in years, making this goal of healthy Canadians unreachable. It is the duty of Health Canada to take this doctor shortage very seriously by helping to provide residents with proper health care - especially since Canadians pay into this service.

It is truly unfair that residents live without proper health care, and struggle in their time of need.

Kefsere Gashi is a former resident of P.E.I. who now lives in Hamilton, Ont. She holds a Masters degree in Social Work.

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