PEI

P.E.I. patients switch from one list to another, but still no doctor

P.E.I.’s Official Opposition says hundreds of Kings County residents spent six months on one waiting list in the hopes of receiving a new family doctor, only to be told at the end they needed to transfer their names onto a second list.

Opposition raises concerns over patients left in limbo after their doctor retired

When Montague family physician Dr. David Hambly retired in 2015, he had 2,400 patients. But the province says the doctor hired to replace him only took on half those patients. (iStock)

P.E.I.'s Official Opposition says hundreds of Kings County residents spent six months on one waiting list in the hopes of receiving a new family doctor, only to be told at the end they needed to transfer their names onto a second list.

MLA Darlene Compton said the problems arose following the retirement of long-time Montague family physician Dr. David Hambly in 2015, who left behind a practice that included 2,400 patients. According to Health and Wellness Minister Robert Henderson, the doctor hired to replace Hambly only took on half those patients.

That left about 1,200 patients who were put on a local waiting list and told they'd be assigned to another Montague doctor once one became available.

But Compton said when one of those patients called recently to see if they'd been assigned to a doctor, they were told to call and register on another list — the provincial patient registry.

'Concerned they don't have a doctor'

"They're concerned about the fact they don't have a doctor and where they are on the wait list," Compton said. "So now they find out six months or a year later, now they have to go on the patient registry. And it's very confusing or frustrating for them."

P.E.I.'s health minister said when patients become orphaned in a situation like this, it's government policy to keep them on a local waiting list for six months in the hopes local doctors will grow their practices and take on more patients.

"We are working and trying to encourage more of those physicians to take on a larger panel size," Henderson said.

"An approximate panel size is, we'd like to see, between 1,400 to 1,600 patients on average. This particular doctor hopefully, as he gets more experience and works longer, will decide to take on a larger panel size in the near future."

1.8 new doctors to replace each retiree

This is not the first time a group of patients has been orphaned when their doctor retired and the replacement physician took on a smaller patient load. Henderson says it's part of a growing trend.

"The younger physicians tend to want more choice and they want more life-work balance than maybe the previous physicians have had."

According to a recent presentation from Health PEI to the province's Standing Committee on Health and Wellness, it takes 1.5 to 1.8 new physicians to replace some of the province's more "productive" outgoing family doctors.

Henderson said the province now has more doctors than ever before and there is no plan to increase that number further. He said government is working with the PEI Medical Society to find ways to encourage existing doctors to increase their patient load.

He also pointed to a new policy whereby doctors hired for positions in Charlottetown and Summerside are required to work under fee-for-service contracts, as opposed to salaried positions, in the hopes that will encourage them to take on more patients.

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