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“It’s bad everywhere” – no excuse for PEI’s failing healthcare system

Updated: Aug 8

There are 24,976 Islanders without access to a primary care provider as of August 1, 2022. The validity of this number is also in question as announcements of family physicians leaving or decreasing their practice continue to roll in; with more to come, as confirmed by Health PEI. The realistic number is now around 30,000. Nursing vacancies continue to rise with 103 positions currently available in the public system alone. 285 RN’s are eligible to retire any day, and we are not integrating enough new graduates or recruits into the system to match those exiting. Nationally, nursing vacancies increased 133% from 1st quarter of 2019 to 1st quarter 2021. A trend continuing to project upwards and painting a bleak picture for our provinces ability to handle the future ramifications. Professionals are leaving at alarming rates. 200 Islanders are waiting for a long-term care bed as 85 of them are closed due to staff shortages. Unions representing our healthcare professionals are working under long expired contracts. Rural emergency departments are closed nearly every second day, and our two primary hospital emergency departments are bursting at the seams. What has Health PEI’s CEO Dr. Michael Gardam offered as a sentiment for all this? Little but slick talk. He confirms things are going to get worse before they get better, reminding Islanders how every province is struggling. An approach also followed by our Minister of Health and Wellness; on the rare occasion he comes out of hiding. These leaders fail to acknowledge PEI is actually dealing with double the strain of our Atlantic neighbors. 18% of PEI’s population is without a primary care provider. In Nova Scotia 10%, and 8% in New Brunswick. Additionally, since 2019 Nova Scotia and New Brunswick have managed to improve their numbers, while PEI’s have doubled. The situation is similar when comparing wait times for joint replacement and cataract surgeries, with PEI also ranking last among the Atlantic provinces. Additionally, from 2017-2021 New Brunswick and Nova Scotia have been able to improve or maintain their wait times while PEI’s have increased. With the news this week of even longer wait times on the horizon, it appears this situation will not be solved any time soon. While healthcare is certainly in crisis across the country, why are we accepting our province to be among the worst? With other provinces taking bold steps in recruitment and retention incentives, scope of practice expansions, and systematic streamlining, we continue to see no visible improvements and are told to expect and accept this continuous rapid decline. The King government boasted how they will appropriately staff and protect our rural hospitals, expedite the build of a new Hillsborough Hospital, establish an in-province medical school, create “medical homes”, implement electronic medical records, and how all these will be the answer to our healthcare problems in the province. All of which have failed, been delayed, or scrapped all together. I am calling on PEI’s Minister of Health and Wellness to come out of hiding and outline a plan with short term actions on how this government is going to keep our healthcare system afloat today, tomorrow, and the weeks and months to come. Not plans for 5-10 years from now. Premier King has shown confidence in his health minister by keeping him in the portfolio during the recent cabinet shuffle, despite many disagreeing with the decision. It is time for both to share their plan for addressing the failing and fragile system of healthcare delivery in our province. Media Contact Colton ProfittDirector of Legislative Affairs (902) 218-4572


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