Members of the South Shore Health and Wellness Inc., a community organization that has been struggling to maintain health services in Crapaud for over two years, say they have been told by Health P.E.I. staff to stop advertising efforts aimed at attracting a family physician to the town.
During a presentation before the standing committee on health and social development on Wednesday, members of the group outlined their efforts to recruit a physician.
The community, which was served by Dr. Hendrik Visser until his retirement in 2017, is now home to a clinic within the South Shore Pharmacy. SSHW Inc. operates the clinic, currently staffed by one nurse practitioner. The group hopes to add a second nurse practitioner to the facility, as well as a full-time family physician, to take on Visser’s former patient load of 2,800 people.
"We feel, over the last two years, our biggest barrier is Health P.E.I.'s centralization philosophy," said South Shore Health and Wellness Inc. secretary Lisa Gallant.
Gallant said the group has posted ads on physician job sites, has put up posters at Dalhousie and MUN universities and has been in contact with co-ordinators of the family medical residencies at both universities. The group is offering free rent in the 3,000 square-foot community clinic for a year.
But the group feels their efforts are being discouraged by Health P.E.I.
“We were told we were not allowed to advertise,” Gallant said.
“We did anyway.”
Health P.E.I. has been advertising the replacement position for Visser’s patients as being within the Queens West health region, which includes Cornwall, Charlottetown and Hunter River, Rustico and Crapaud. Gallant said a posting for the position on the Canadian Association of Staff Physician Recruiters (CASPR) website currently lists the position as being located in Charlottetown.
The group has been told Health P.E.I. would only support clinics with a minimum of four to five physicians practising in one location.
"We're not sure that's the best model in a province where so many of our residents live in rural areas," Gallant said.
"If you look at all of the health clinics run by Health P.E.I. currently — Kensington, Rustico, Hunter River, Tignish, Tyne Valley, Alberton — none of those facilities have four to five physicians. And several only have one."
Matt MacFarlane, co-chair of SSHWI, said the total population of the South Shore area without access to a family doctor is around 8,000.
"Those people in that geography are getting insufficient care, insufficient follow-up and insufficient continuity," MacFarlane said.
Progressive Conservative members Jamie Fox and Cory Deagle expressed support for the efforts of the South Shore group. Fox, whose district includes Crapaud, said the community supports these efforts.
“It’s just typical bureaucratic nonsense,” Deagle said of the actions of Health P.E.I.
Liberal member Robert Henderson suggested the centralization of health services could be tied to a “health-care hub” initiative of the PC party.
"I'm trying to get an answer on what these hubs are," Henderson said.
"I can't get an answer. I'm told it's kind of a Green party initiative."
The PCs allocated $5 million for health-care hubs in West Prince and Eastern Kings County in their recent capital budget. They also allocated $1.8 million for a “collaborative care space” in Queens county, an item that was included in the Liberal election platform last April.
Green Leader Peter Bevan-Baker took issue with the suggestion that the South Shore woes were due to a Green party initiative. He suggested the Liberals were attempting to sow confusion.
"I have no idea what government is doing when they talk about health hubs either. But let's not make that a point of contention."