Physician tells why ER coverage is so vital

Eric McCarthy
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Dr. Herb Dickieson

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.

Organizations: Western Hospital

Geographic location: West Prince, Prince Edward Island

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  • he never lost voice
    January 19, 2013 - 16:50

    Broke his silence? What the heck does that mean? Should he have to repeat everything he has ever said about the subject for years? Why just him? There are other doctors up there who may appear to be more silent. When Dr Dickieson does speak he relays something about the health care system that makes sense. He is not like some politicians who plaster their photo all over the media and relay garble dee gook.{probably not a medical term} just for the sake of being out there., and seen. People listen to Dr . Dickieson, he is a quiet, smart , and caring doctor and person. He has been in the up west medical trenches for years. He has first hand knowledge of the pluses and minuses. I doubt he was ever silent. Quality speaking perhaps over quantity. When he speaks people do listen. And he makes sense.

  • UPWESTER
    January 18, 2013 - 15:30

    The problem that has befallen the ER in West Prince is the govts.' decision to allow these doctors to open walk in clinics.That has removed 4 doctors from working ER. A walk in clinic is something that we might expect to see in third world countries, not here.That is the kind of service missionaries offer in Africa. Until this practice is halted, we will have no ER service, regardless what a minister of tourism might have to say. All you need to do to confirm this is to look at the mess tourism is in. Need I say more.