P.E.I.'s PC party says health minister Doug Currie should take over the now vacant role of CEO of Health P.E.I.

The opposition on Prince Edward Island is calling for health minister Doug Currie to take over the reins of Health P.E.I.

This follows the announcement yesterday that CEO Keith Dewar is stepping down to take a new position in Saskatchewan.

PC MLA James Aylward said the minister has been saying current health care spending is not sustainable. Aylward said if that's the case, eliminating the CEO position and streamlining the bureaucracy in upper management provides the perfect opportunity to look at ways to save money within the system.

"What I hope the health minister would look at this as an opportunity to reign in control of Health P.E.I. and to try to take away some of the top heaviness within this organization," said Aylward. "I mean we've got a CEO that is leaving, his salary is just shy of $200,000. We have a board that in a lot of ways seems to act as a shield for the minister, when the minister is ultimately responsible for his department."

But the health minister said he will not eliminate the CEO position. Doug Currie argued the salary is at the lower end for a comparable size health board.

Currie said Health P.E.I. provides a vital role in healthcare delivery. He said the department develops policy....but Health PEI implements that policy.

"We have some of the lower administrative costs in the country," said Currie. "So I think we are running a very efficient operation from an administrative standpoint and I'm very supportive of Health PEI, health administrators, nurses and physicians running the health care system from an operational perspective."

Currie said while the department develops policy, it's Health P.E.I. that implements it.

Aylward believes Health P.E.I. was set up as an arms length agency so the minister could deflect criticism of his decisions on to the C-E-O.

He said the time is right for the minister to be more "hands on" with Health P.E.I. and more accountable for his own decisions.

Keith Dewar was in the CEO position since Health P.E.I. was created two years ago. He's moving to Saskatchewan where he will become the president and CEO of the Regina-Qu'Appelle Health Region.

Meanwhile the search for a new Chief Executive Officer for Health P.E.I. has begun.

Dr. Richard Wedge will be acting CEO until Dewar is replaced.