Prince Edward Island is losing one of its two remaining cancer specialists, at a time when the province is already struggling to find a third oncologist.

'The number of medical oncologists across the country is low.' — Dr. Richard Wedge, Health PEI

Health PEI has budgeted to have three cancer doctors in the province, but has been operating with just two for the last year and a half. Now Dr. Dagny Dryer has decided to retire at the end of April.

Dr. Richard Wedge, acting CEO of Health PEI, is hoping an oncologist just finishing her training will come to work on the Island before Dryer retires in the spring. That oncologist, still in negotiations with Health PEI, would be to replace the one that left in 2011.

It would not be possible for one oncologist to meet the demand, said Wedge.

"He has to maintain a good work-life balance," he said.

"He'll be doing what he can, the other patients are going to have to be transferred to other sites in the Maritimes, mainly Moncton and Halifax, at this point."

The P.E.I. division of the Canadian Cancer Society is disappointed to hear more patients may have to go off-Island for treatment.

"It's a very difficult time in anyone's life,' said executive director Lori Barker.

"Adding the financial burden and the stress and emotional burden of having to travel is just one more thing we don't want to see people have to face.

Barker is hopeful another cancer specialist can be recruited, but Wedge said the province is a hard sell for oncologists.

"The number of medical oncologists across the country is low, and the people who are interested in moving to a small, non-academic centre is even lower," he said.

Wedge expects it could be another year before P.E.I. finds someone to replace the retiring Dryer.

For mobile device users: Do you have confidence in Health PEI's chances of recruiting a third oncologist?