It may be a new week for health care information sessions on P.E.I. but the message from residents is that people are not in favour of announced changes for western P.E.I.

Monday's meeting was in Ellerslie where 400 residents packed into a school to meet with Health Minister Doug Currie.


Doug Currie insisted the planned changes to health care in rural P.E.I. would go ahead. (CBC)

Under the changes announced by Currie, the local hospital, Stewart Memorial, will become a long-term care facility. Two of those beds will be available for respite care.

People fighting to keep the hospital services as they are now say that the province is closing the hospital and turning it into a manor.

Stewart Memorial serves the Lennox Island First Nation. Chief Darlene Bernard told the meeting the changes will force residents of the reserve to go to Prince County Hospital in Summerside for treatment.

"So to expect band members to move to urban centres to access health care will do nothing but put more aboriginal people on the streets."

Others at the meeting questioned how basic services would change after the 23-bed facility starts offering mainly long-term care.

Roderick MacNeill with the Friends of Stewart Memorial doesn't like that residents needing blood work will have samples taken at the Tyne Valley health clinic and then that vial of blood will be transported to Prince County Hospital for testing.

"After pickup, they will drive by 12 doctors and three closed ERs before reaching Summerside."

Currently only simple blood tests are being done at Stewart Memorial, said Health PEI.

After the changes, people requiring X-ray services will have to go to O'Leary, Alberton or Summerside.

Health Minister Doug Currie continued to tell residents of western P.E.I. delivery of health care needs to change for the good of all Islanders. The key part of the changes is to free up more acute care beds so more residents have access to the services they need.

"Today, in our system, we are experiencing long wait times in some of our larger facilities. We're experiencing long delays for elective surgeries, even with more money and more investment and more health care providers, more physicians than we we ever had."

West Prince doctor Joyce Madigane told the meeting Stewart Memorial also has shortage of beds.

"And when I have no beds because the beds are locked downstairs, no mattresses on six beds, it's pretty sad. Now we're going to close the hospital."

Residents of western P.E.I. are going to continue the fight to keep local services later this week. A group is planning to rally at Province House this Thursday.