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Health P.E.I. board had plan to close hospital beds, says Mitchell

Health Minister Robert Mitchell, left, shown with Fisheries and Agriculture Minister Robert Henderson, says people have to be residents of P.E.I. for 183 days in order to get a health card. He was responding to questions in the legislature Wednesday by Opposition health critic Sidney MacEwen, who wanted to know if immigrants who used the motel address involved in a current immigration investigation have P.E.I. health cards.
Health Minister Robert Mitchell, left, shown with Fisheries and Agriculture Minister Robert Henderson, in this file photo. - Mitch MacDonald

Health P.E.I.’s board of directors had a plan to send people home from hospital early and close beds to try to save money, says Health Minister Robert Mitchell.

Earlier this week, Health P.E.I.’s entire board of directors resigned over what its chairman, Alex MacBeath, said were concerns about a new governance model the government announced.

Mitchell responded to those comments Thursday, saying he didn’t agree with the board’s management plan.

“It’s not a path that Islanders gave us a mandate to do when they elected us three years ago,” he said.

The board’s management plan included moving patients out of beds and sending them home several days sooner than currently happens, Mitchell said.

Those beds, Mitchell said, would then be closed, which would lead to job losses.

Mitchell said he asked the board to find other ways to meet its budget after several years of overspending.

“Obviously, they haven’t done that for several budget cycles, which is concerning.”

RELATED: Entire Health P.E.I. board of directors resigns over concern with government direction

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MacBeath also said the board’s recommendation for a new CEO was one of the things Mitchell rejected.

However, Mitchell said Thursday that the province hired a recruitment firm for the CEO search.

The day before the final interviews a representative from the firm made a recommendation to re-open the search because it only had one candidate at the end of the process, Mitchell said.

“I followed his recommendation.”

Mitchell added the board seemed to be onside with continuing the search for a new CEO.

“That was the agreement that was made that day.”

Legislation to change the Health Services Act is working its way through the legislature and includes requiring Health P.E.I. to submit an operational plan to the health minister.

The legislation would also change the size and composition of the board and give the minister additional oversight.

MacBeath told The Guardian the changes in the legislation were a step in the wrong direction.

Opposition Leader James Aylward said the bill has given more power to the minister.

“I don’t know exactly what’s happening behind the scenes, but obviously there’s some major disagreements and lack of confidence in this minister and this government if we see an entire board walking away,” he said.

Aylward questioned why Mitchell didn’t mention the board’s plan to cut beds when discussing the matter in the legislature Wednesday.

“Obviously, if he knew of a strategic plan by Health P.E.I. and the board he should have come out and defended health care and Islanders right away on that,” he said.

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