Health Hub Scheme
Updated: Mar 29, 2020
Over the past several months, I have become increasingly concerned with an apparent lack of direction for health care on Prince Edward Island.
Health care is the biggest challenge government faces. And while no one expects instant solutions, it is absolutely vital for government to clearly indicate its plans to improve access to health care services.
In particular, I am worried about the current process to develop so-called ‘health hubs’ – and the potential for centralization of services away from rural Prince Edward Island.
Adding to my concern is this reality: In spite of the fact that $5 million has been budgeted for health hubs, no one seems to know what they are.
The matter first reached the attention of the Liberal caucus in the fall of 2019, when government set aside $5 million for the health hubs.
I asked questions in the House – and to my surprise, Premier Dennis King decided he would explain the concept.
This is what he said:
“It’s an idea that was developed in the platform of the now Opposition (Green) party, which I think is a good one. I want to find out more about it and find out how we can work on it together. For lack of a better word, it’s a placeholder there now with a dollar figure attached to it.”
So, in spite of the fact that government budgeted millions for the hub idea, the Premier told the House that it was really a Green Party idea – and that anyone with questions should direct them to Peter Bevan-Baker.
Setting aside the whole question of government accountability, it remains utterly unclear what is being proposed. And more to the point, it’s not clear who will explain the contradictions or confusion. Is it the Conservative government? Or their enthusiastic partners in collaboration, the Greens?
For that reason, both myself and my colleagues in the Liberal caucus will do our best to determine exactly what it is that is being proposed.
First of all, we do not believe that millions need to be spent on physical infrastructure. There are existing facilities across the Island that already provide access to Islanders. There are examples in Tyne Valley, O’Leary, Tignish, Crapaud and other communities.
Our real challenge remains the people who provide the services – and frankly, there has not been any improvement since an election in which the governing Conservatives promised to “fix” health care.
Let me illustrate that point: When I had the privilege of serving as Health Minister, there were approximately 8,000 Islander waiting for a family doctor. Too many? Yes. But now? As of this week, the number of Islanders who do not have a family doctor has grown to more than 16,000.
For that reason – and as a Member of the Legislative Assembly, I believe I would much rather see that $5 million invested in recruitment and retention of health care professionals.
And to my mind, that means looking at the fundamentals:
· Be competitive when it comes to paying nurses, doctors and other health care professionals
· Engage communities in the recruitment process
· Address scope of practice questions in a way that allows improved access to services from those who are trained to provide health care
Again, I know there are no simple answers. However, I do believe that government has an obligation to be crystal clear in its plans – and to dispel the kind of confusion that currently exists with the health hub scheme.