The doctor who started up P.E.I.'s only pain clinic four years ago wants to retire, leaving questions about how the clinic will continue to operate.

'You're still going to need the physician to do the full medical assessment.' — Dr. Des Colohan

Dr. Des Colohan, the Island's only chronic pain specialist, turns 65 next year. He's been looking to recruit a doctor to take over his clinic and the more than 400 patients it serves.

"We haven't found a physician who's keen to do this yet," Colohan told CBC News Friday.

It seems unlikely the clinic will be able to continue to operate with only a single full-time doctor in place.

"I'm still hanging in there and trying to get other resources to allow me to do what is for me the most important thing, and that is to see new patients," said Colohan.

"You're still going to need the physician to do the full medical assessment. That's the part we'd be missing if nobody else were able to come in here."

Assessing patients and developing a treatment plan is the most important role for a pain clinic doctor, said Colohan. He recently asked Health PEI to look at hiring a nurse practitioner. The current thinking is a nurse practitioner, in concert with other health professionals, could do a lot of the pain management for patients already assessed by a doctor.

Dr. Richard Wedge, executive director of medical affairs for Health PEI, said a nurse practitioner has expressed interest, and a doctor has agreed to help part time.

"We're going to start with a day a week, and he'll be doing most of the same things, although Dr. Colohan has a lot more experience," said Wedge.

"The plan is to have a permanent chronic pain clinic here on Prince Edward Island."

While changes in operation will be necessary, Wedge said he hopes to see services offered by the pain clinic expand over the next few years.