ELMSDALE -- A West Prince physician, who was once very vocal on health care issues in the region, broke his silence Thursday night with a letter he asked to have read at the Western Hospital forum.
Dr. Herb Dickieson, the vice-chair of the West Prince medical staff, indicated he was unable to attend the meeting because he was on call duty at Western.
Dickieson, who concluded his letter by thanking the meeting’s organizing committee for their efforts to convince government to recruit physicians and to support emergency services for West Prince residents, outlined why 24/7 ER services at Western are so vital.
The service is needed, he said, to provide access to life-sustaining interventions in life-threatening situations, to provide convenience of service to patients in non life-threatening situations such as in need of a cast or stitches or to treat a screaming child for a late night earache and to provide in-patient coverage, with a nursing team to allow for immediate attention to urgent and emergency needs that might arise.
Without emergency room coverage, Dickieson warned, the hospital could lose the ability to care for patients with conditions such as pneumonia.
O’Leary-Inverness MLA and provincial tourism minister Robert Henderson offered assurances government cares but said health care issues are complex.
He said health care in this province costs about $560 million annually, or about 50 cents for every hour, 365 days a year, for every Islander.
On the shortage of physicians to work in the emergency department, Henderson said government can’t force doctors to cover ER. He asked whether government should accept only physicians who will take turns in the ER and then answered his own question. “I would say most of us would say we would be grateful to have a physician come to Prince Edward Island and come to our community and service at least the primary health care needs.”
Henderson said it was suggested seven doctors are needed to keep the ER functioning. Currently only three doctors are providing call, but there are four locums lined up who are expected to help handle shortfalls at least into April.
Retired nurse Phyllis Porter said it used to be automatic that doctors joining a medical staff would take call. “That was just the way it was, and when that changed everything changed, and that’s too bad,” she said.