PEI

P.E.I. doctor shortage needs major changes to fix, says retiring Health PEI CEO

The outgoing CEO of Health PEI says it's going to take major change for every Islander to have access to family medicine services. Thursday is Dr. Richard Wedge's last day in the job he's had for four years.

Dr. Richard Wedge says team-based care needs to come in, among other major changes

Dr. Richard Wedge is leaving the position of CEO for Health PEI, which he has held for four years. (CBC)

The outgoing CEO of Health PEI says it's going to take major changes to make sure every Islander has access to family medicine services.

Thursday is Dr. Richard Wedge's last day in the job he's had for four years.

Before that, Wedge was Health PEI's Director of Medical Affairs.

Wedge, appearing on Island Morning Thursday, said while about 96 per cent of Islanders have a primary health care provider, the number of people on the patient registry hasn't changed dramatically over the years.

While the number fluctuates, it was recently at about 8,000.

Wedge said a move to groups of health professionals working together could be the answer to providing more access to care. 

Health PEI CEO Richard Wedge says his biggest challenge was trying to deliver top quality health care within the fiscal resources of the province. (CBC)
"It's really going to take a major change in how we deliver family medicine services here on Prince Edward Island to hit 100 per cent," he said. "We have to get to a point where we have enough family doctors in team-based care that's going to allow us to offer evening hours, weekend hours, holiday hours to patients who are then able to get in the same day when they have a health concern.

"There is a core group of physicians out there who are willing to go down that road and we are working with them," Wedge continued. "We have a strengthening primary care program underway that we're working on now, and it'll come."

Nurse practitioners underused

Wedge said he feels nurse practitioners are underused on P.E.I., and there should be a few more of them working in clinics.

But he said, they need to be put into roles that are working well and working as part of team-based care.

Wedge said his biggest challenge as CEO of Health PEI was trying to deliver top quality health care within the fiscal resources of the province.

Health PEI's budget is about $586 million this year — 45 per cent of the province's budget.

Wedge pointed to the new ground ambulance service as one of the successes during his tenure.

Abortion emotional and divisive

On the abortion issue, he said it was a very emotional and divisive topic on many fronts, and that Health PEI had to work within government policy.

Island women can now refer themselves to a clinic in Moncton for abortion services.

"I think it's one of those things that we have a lot more priorities than that to do," Wedge said about whether abortions should be provided in the province. "But certainly if there's a change in government policy, that we could provide them here on Prince Edward Island."

Wedge said he plans to spend time sailing this summer.

He also plans to continue to do some part-time clinical work, including working for other physicians, and might also expand his small practice working with troubled teens.

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