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OPINION: A commitment to ERs

Emergency departments in Charlottetown and Summerside are open 24 hours, seven days a week.
(P.E.I. government photo)
Emergency departments in Charlottetown and Summerside are open 24 hours, seven days a week. (P.E.I. government photo) - The Guardian

As long as this mentality exists, we won’t get necessary experts we need here on Island



I am writing in response to Dr. Des Colohan’s opinion column “No easy solutions.” I respectfully disagree with Dr. Colohan’s assertion that “we will never have enough specially trained doctors or nurses to provide emergency services” on the Island.

I am particularly disturbed by his statement: “The general public (has) an unhealthy fear that when they or a loved one have what they believe to be a medical urgency, they won’t have immediate access to an Emergency Department (ED). At least that’s the way it seems from the anxiety generated by intermittent announcements about hospital Emergency Department closures, primarily in our rural hospitals.”

What’s unhealthy about fearing someone you love might go into cardiac arrest or have a sudden brain bleed or other medical emergency and you must travel an hour or more to obtain emergency medical treatment?

The statement I do agree with is: “There are solutions to ED and hospital overcrowding but real change will take political will and careful planning. By the way, we need to develop a different model for delivering rural emergency care.”

Right on, Dr. Colohan. Here are a few ideas:

#1 – there are plenty of people who specialize in emergency medicine – both doctors and nurses. I’ve worked in ED’s for 30 years and know many people willing to work nights and weekends. They specialize in emergency medicine. The province must decide they are willing to pay these people to come to the Island and work here. But that requires a commitment from the province not to close any ER at any time. As long as the mentality exists that it’s all right to close an ER, we won’t get the necessary experts that we need here on the Island. We will limp along expecting overworked family and primary care physicians to staff our ER’s - a totally inappropriate use of their time and talents.

#2. As long as there are ER closures, I suggest that when necessary to close an ER, all the Island ER’s be closed on a rotating basis – including the QEH. Once the politicians realize they and their families will have to travel perhaps an hour or more in a medical emergency, keeping all the ER’s open – even the rural ones - on the Island will become a top priority.

#3. The rural civic organizations that so vigorously and generously raise money for and donate to the QEH should keep their money local and donate to their rural hospitals. After all, I don’t believe anyone in Charlottetown, or even Queens County, is raising money for the rural hospitals.

#4. That a goal be established to relieve all family/primary practitioners from staffing Emergency Departments. This would free up these professionals to serve members of the community and help alleviate the doctor shortage on the Island.

And #5. Encourage people to abandon cavalier attitudes like Dr. Colohan’s that appear dismissive of the medical and emergent needs of people in rural communities.

- Laverne V. MacInnis of Murray Harbour worked in emergency psychiatrist evaluation in ER rooms the U.S. medical community. She currently does per diem work for Boston Medical Centre.

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