PEI

Montague ER understaffed for 13 days in June, says health critic

A Health PEI memo has gone out saying doctor coverage is urgently required for 13 days in June at the Montague ER, Opposition health critic Sidney MacEwen told the House Friday.

Doctors from other regions may still cover shifts, says health minister

The 30-bed community hospital in Montague usually provides emergency room services from 8 a.m. until 10 p.m. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

A Health PEI memo has gone out saying doctor coverage is urgently required for 13 days in June at the Montague, P.E.I. emergency room, Opposition health critic Sidney MacEwen told the House Friday. 

There have been about a dozen closures of the ER at the Kings County Memorial Hospital since last fall because of a lack of doctors.

MacEwen questioned the health minister about what is going to be done to cover those shifts and if the duties of nurses can be expanded to help.

The memo details that coverage is needed for June 3, 4, 5, 9, 11,12,16, 18, 19, 22, 25, 26, and 29. 

Physician no longer able to work dates

The majority of potential upcoming closures are the result of a physician who was scheduled to work those days no longer being able to do so, according to a statement from Health PEI.

Health PEI says it is working with the group of physicians who currently support the emergency department at KCMH, along with other emergency department physicians from across the province and locum physicians who have worked in emergency medicine to fill any upcoming vacancies. 

PC MLA Sidney MacEwen questioned the health minister about what is going to be done to cover the shifts at the ER in Montague. (CBC)

"I don't hear of other places in P.E.I. with this many closures and I hope that the minister knows how important this is to eastern P.E.I.," said MacEwen. "It's serious. We don't have walk-in clinics down there."

Health Minister Robert Mitchell says it's not uncommon to have staffing issues and doctors from other regions may still step up to cover many or even all of the dates. Doctors have filled in in the past. 

"The member has indicated a fair number of spots, but those are out the road, down into the future. We will be dealing with other physicians from all over Prince Edward Island to determine if anybody can step up to fill in the needs that are there," said Mitchell. 

'That's this weekend'

"It certainly isn't down the road. We're talking about Sunday, Monday and Tuesday to start with. That's not down the road. That's this weekend," MacEwen said in response.

Mitchell said there is a new process to triage people and assess if their needs are urgent and have them come back the next day if possible starting June 1st. 

He also said he met with people a couple of weeks ago along with Dr. Scott Campbell from the Montague area to let people know about the changes. 

Health Minister Robert Mitchell says no options are off the table when it comes to providing Islanders with proper health care and addressing the ER doctor shortages. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

"What we're trying to do is provide sustainable ER coverage for the Kings County region," said Mitchell. 

ER doctor shifts are also getting split in half from 14 hours so they are easier to cover said the minister. 

Mitchell said he continues to consider options like walk-in clinics, nurse practitioners and has had conversations about expanding scope of practice with front-line health workers. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Krystalle Ramlakhan is a multi-platform journalist with CBC Ottawa. She has also worked for CBC in P.E.I., Winnipeg and Iqaluit.

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