© Guardian photo
Western Hospital in Alberton
Alberton-Roseville MLA Pat Murphy says he’s concerned about recruitment and retention of physicians in West Prince.
The Liberal member of the legislative assembly says the number of physician vacancies is higher than government says it is.
During question period on Wednesday, Murphy asked Health Minister Doug Currie what the number of vacancies was in West Prince, from Tyne Valley to the western tip.
Currie said the province is currently trying to fill 2.5 vacant positions. However, Murphy says that number should be 3.5.
Murphy doesn’t think Dr. Syed Naqvi, who has a practice in Summerside but provides physician services at the Western Hospital in Alberton, should be considered part of the complement of physicians in West Prince.
“He shouldn’t be considered part of the West Prince complement,’’ Murphy told The Guardian after question period. “He isn’t offering primary services (in West Prince).’’
In February, Tyne Valley-Linkletter MLA Paula Biggar expressed concern on her Facebook page that she has received numerous inquiries from residents wondering what to do about a family doctor and Murphy shares those concerns.
Biggar was commenting following the death of Dr. Joyce Madigane, leaving what was believed to be about 1,000 patients without a family doctor.
Currie said Naqvi is considered to be part of the 12-doctor complement in West Prince.
“The reality of the situation is Dr. Naqvi is working in Summerside but he is also providing health physician services in the western part of the province at the ER. He’s a consistent staff member at the emergency room,’’ Currie said. “He still has a billing number as part of the complement. Right now, he’s available, interested and willing to provide those ER services.’’
The health minister said government is aggressively trying to fill 2.5 positions.
“As we expand on that 2.5 Dr. Naqvi will make a decision as to whether he continues to provide services in the west or stay permanent in Summerside.’’
Naqvi took over the practice of Dr. Baldev Sethi in Tignish two years ago before he left that practice about a year later.
Murphy said his constituents are concerned about access to doctors.
“There’s always a concern over doctor shortage. That creates a challenge for the existing doctors and for people to get in in a timely fashion to see a doctor,’’ Murphy said.
Currie said physicians will do different levels of services.
“Ongoing we have locums committed that are currently committed up there to sort of backfill those 2.5 vacancies. We have locums coming in and we’re recruiting aggressively to fill for permanent positions. We also have two nurse practitioners and we’ll be advertising and adding another nurse practitioner in the west as well,’’ the minister said.
Currie said their day-to-day recruiting efforts are showing promise.
“We’ve had, over the last couple of weeks, site visits and negotiations on potential contracts.’’
The minister added that efforts also continue on other fronts, such as with the family residency program, rural returning service initiative which tries to entice physicians to rural parts of the province and $800,000 annually on purchasing medical seats that are designated for Island students at the Dalhousie Medical School.