A psychiatrist who has been working primarily with older people is leaving P.E.I. to practise elsewhere, and will likely not be replaced for at least a year.

'Every time we lose one ... we're taking a step back and trying to move forward again.'— Dr. Richard Wedge, Health PEI

Dr. Shabbir Amanullah will be leaving P.E.I. toward the end of July. The province has a complement of 15 psychiatrists. Amanullah's departure leaves the province with 13.

Dr. Richard Wedge, medical affairs director for Health PEI, said Amanullah has been working at Hillsborough Hospital and with geriatric patients on an outpatient basis at the QEH as well as at provincial manors.

"Mental health is one of those priority areas that we've been trying to improve our service for the last several years," said Wedge.

"Of course the concern is every time we lose one that we're taking a step back and trying to move forward again."

Wedge said Amanullah's patients will be triaged and those who are more urgent will be seen by another psychiatrist quickly, while those who are less urgent will likely have a longer wait. Even for those assigned a new doctor the situation is not ideal, Wedge admits, because it will take time to develop a relationship with a new psychiatrist.

Amanullah is leaving to pursue professional opportunities elsewhere. Health PEI is expecting a new psychiatrist to start practising on the Island next July.

A locum psychiatrist to help with the patient load is being sought in the meantime.