ALBERTON -- A trend among new family physicians across Canada is having an impact on the delivery of emergency room care in West Prince, the Chief Executive Officer of Health P.E.I. related Monday.
“They want to concentrate on providing high-quality family medicine care in the office,” Dr. Richard Wedge explained.
West Prince has a complement of 12 physicians and one of those positions is currently vacant. One physician is currently on leave. Of the 10 remaining physicians, only three are providing emergency room coverage, Wedge said in explaining why there are 12 time slots during the month of January when no physician is available to staff the Western Hospital’s emergency department.
He responded to criticism from opposition MLA Hal Perry who suggested Health P.E.I. is deliberately trying to cause emergency room services in West Prince to fail by hiring doctors who can not or will not provide emergency room care.
“The choice is, when we have a physician interested in going to West Prince and only working in the office do we say, ‘No, no, we’ll leave that position vacant until we can find somebody who is willing to do both’?” Wedge asked. “At some point we have to be reasonable and have a sustainable service for West Prince. The vast majority of service being seen by family medicine is in their office, not in emergency. That’s where people would prefer to get their care. They don’t want to go to emergency if they don’t have to.”
“I guess, if we had the luxury of five applicants saying, ‘yeah, we’d be happy to go to West Prince,’ then we could pick and choose, but we do have to try to maintain services all across P.E.I.,” he emphasized.
Alberton Roseville MLA Pat Murphy said Monday he’s asked the Minister of Health, to consider different schedules, including the Nova Scotia Collaborative Emergency Care model for West Prince.
Wedge said that model and others have been discussed with West Prince physicians and are being considered.
The Nova Scotia model involves emergency room coverage by a Registered nurse and a paramedic who have telephone contact with a physician. Wedge said the model is being looked at but there are still questions to be answered, including having a patient spend two hours in a CEC when an emergency department is just an hour away.
Wedge said locums were found to help address emergency room coverage in Alberton during December, and locums are available for February and March. He said Health P.E.I. was unable to secure locums for January.
Wedge said emergency room coverage is not an issue in Summerside and Charlottetown where full-time emergency medicine physicians are on staff, nor is it an issue in Montague where all seven physicians on staff take turns in emergency.