Herb Dickieson has ideas to fix P.E.I. health care
'The number one issue for Islanders is health care'
Herb Dickieson may not have won a seat in the provincial election for the NDP in District 25 O'Leary-Inverness, but that's not stopping him from sharing his thoughts on one Island issue.
In an editorial letter sent to P.E.I. media, Dickieson, a retired doctor and former NDP MLA, put forward some of his ideas on how to solve the Island's physician shortage.
"The number one issue for Islanders is health care, a very important part of that is the family physician," he said in an interview with CBC Island Morning.
Dickieson said there are 13,000 registered Islanders who don't have a family physician and hundreds more who are unregistered that don't have a doctor either.
"The wait-lists are too long, far too long. And this is interrupting families, this is interrupting businesses on the Island. We have to have a solution."
Dickieson's ideas include a facilitated recruitment program, community participation in recruitment, access to high-speed internet and establishing a medical faculty at UPEI.
Medical graduates tend to want to practise in the area they are educated.— Herb Dickieson
"The best way to have Island physicians is to educate our own Island physicians right here in P.E.I.," Dickieson said, adding P.E.I. is the only province without a faculty of medicine.
Creating that faculty, Dickieson said, would allow people to study to be a physician on the Island and increase the likelihood they will stay and practise in the province.
"Medical graduates tend to want to practise in the area they are educated," he said.
Dickieson said in the letter the cost of such a facility would be defrayed by attracting some foreign medical students to join Islanders earning their medical degrees.
Doubling physician residency
His letter also included the idea of immediately doubling family physician residency positions.
Dickieson said right now, there is a residency program that requires prospective doctors to work two years on the Island in the health field before they are considered a full-fledged physician.
We need to work collaboratively with our physicians on Prince Edward Island. - Herb Dickieson
"We need more residency positions on Prince Edward Island so that Island physicians can get their education on Prince Edward Island, they are more apt to be practising physicians in this province."
Right now doctors are overburdened with the load they have, Dickieson said.
"We have to work collaboratively with our physicians on Prince Edward Island."
Island doctors need to be part of the process in attracting new doctors, along with the community members, Dickieson said.
"Where we have seen success best in West Prince is when the local communities have been involved with the process."
Working with incoming government
Health care was a major portion of the NDP's platform during the provincial election. Dickieson said he's already spoken with someone from the incoming PC government about how to solve the shortage of family doctors on P.E.I.
"With this, we have a whole batch of new MLAs and all sides of the legislature. They're looking for great ideas. They want to come together," he said.
"This is the best opportunity we have to get things off the ground."
Dickieson said he has met with premier-designate Dennis King face-to-face, but not to discuss family doctors.
"I had some informal talks and first of all I'm very impressed with our premier-[designate], Dennis King, who is suggesting he will look for ideas from wherever they come and help implement them."
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With files from Island Morning