More than 200 residents gathered at Englewood School in Crapaud on Tuesday night to get an update on the effort to secure a family doctor for the South Shore region.
Ian Dennison, co-chairman of South Shore Health and Wellness Inc., said the committee’s work has ranged from lobbying government and Health P.E.I. officials to doing their own recruiting and fundraising.
The billing number formerly used by Dr. Hendrik Visser in Crapaud could now be allocated anywhere in the Queens West health region, Dennison said, but residents want it in Crapaud.
“They’ve been saying it loudly and clearly and repeatedly. Why Crapaud? It’s the centre of the region, essentially.”
But Health P.E.I.’s recruitment division has refused to advertise the vacancy as being in Crapaud, Dennison said, and on one prominent site it was listed as being in Charlottetown.
“Those services were here for 170 years, and they need to stay here.”
“We call it rural discrimination … don’t pit regions against each other. All regions need fair access.”
-Alan MacPhee, Island Wide Hospital Access
The committee will supply its own medical equipment to a new doctor, free rent for a year and local gym and curling club memberships. They hope to have two full-time nurse practitioners as well.
There are 2,800 patients in the region without a doctor since the departure of Dr. Joey Giordani more than a year ago.
That’s a far bigger practice than most physicians coming out of school are willing to take on, Dennison said.
Continuity of care is difficult without a family doctor, Dennison said, and the loss of primary care can lead to a decline in jobs, new families and local services.
“It’s not something out of line that we’re asking for.”
Alan MacPhee, chairman of Island Wide Hospital Access, spoke about the importance of investing in rural health care and bucking the centralization policy he said Health P.E.I. is following.
“We call it rural discrimination … don’t pit regions against each other. All regions need fair access,” said MacPhee, who helped lead the charge for more doctors in Souris.
There, he said, the community recruited all three of its current doctors and managed to keep dialysis and lab services.
He said health administration costs have spiked since rural hospital boards disbanded in 2004 and that the South Shore should get a bigger piece of health transfers from Ottawa.
“About $10 million comes in to the province every year just because you exist,” he told the crowd.
Lisa Gallant, owner of the South Shore Pharmacy and the other co-chairwoman of SSHWI, said she agreed with MacPhee that health care is being centralized on P.E.I.
“I’ve felt that way for some time. We need our fair share. There’s no reason why we can’t have a primary health-care facility in the South Shore.”
For now, the committee will continue its independent recruiting efforts and keep advocating to government, Gallant said.