Doctors upset about increased patient loads

Some P.E.I. family doctors are upset after receiving a letter from Health PEI saying that patients were about to be added to their rosters.

But Health P.E.I. says it just wants one doctor for every Islander

Dr. Rachel Kassner says the medical society is upset about the lack of respect shown to doctors. (CBC)

Some P.E.I. family physicians are upset they're being assigned more patients by Health P.E.I.

The agency recently sent letters to 20 salaried family physicians, indicating the doctors would have to take on more patients from the patient registry.

"We've been getting complaints from various physicians, members of the public, around the fact that the physicians have different loads," explained Dr. Richard Wedge from Health P.E.I.

Full-time salaried family doctors on P.E.I. are supposed to have 1,500 patients. The Health P.E.I. letters indicate the doctors weren't living up to that standard. 

As a result, one doctor has been told to expect 450 new patients from the registry; others will get as few as 20.

The letters also follow comments from Health Minister Carolyn Bertram, who has previously said some salaried family doctors aren't living up to expectations when it comes to the number of patients they see. 

Dr. Rachel Kassner, president of the Medical Society of P.E.I., said some doctors spend more time with patients or have more senior patients with a number of health problems. She said that's why those doctors might have lighter patient loads.

While the Medical Society acknowledges there are workload expectations, Kassner suggested the organization doesn't like how the doctors are being treated.

Full-time salaried doctors make a base wage of $150,000 a year.

"I don't think anyone expects to do $50 work and get paid 100," Kassner said. "I think it was more the lack of respect that we felt coming from the government."

Issues need to be addressed: Health P.E.I.

There are now 9,600 Islanders without a family physician. Health P.E.I. says it's simply working towards the goal of a doctor for every Islander.

Wedge said Health P.E.I. would work with the doctors to determine why they feel they can't take on more patients.

"If those reasons are legitimate, then obviously we'll be looking at reducing their numbers," he said.

"But in the most cases, these folks are just taking extra time with some patients and not taking enough time with other patients. Those are issues that need to be dealt with in a professional manner."

Kassner, however, suggested that putting more pressure on doctors could affect patient care.

"It's wonderful to find a doctor for everyone, and we fully support that," she said.

"We all care about our patients; that's what we're here for. But if it's going to bring a decline in service that is being provided to the patients, then it's going to be a real problem."

Kassner said she wouldn't be surprised if some of the doctors who received the letter decide to leave the province.