PEI

Psychiatrist shortage forcing shutdowns of mental health beds at QEH

Health Minister Robert Henderson says one of P.E.I.'s main referral hospitals has been shutting down beds in its mental health unit because it doesn’t have enough psychiatrists some days to properly staff the unit.

Opposition accuses government of not placing priority on Islanders’ mental health

P.E.I.'s Opposition tried repeatedly in the legislature Wednesday to get the premier and health minister to refer to the situation in mental health as a crisis, accusing them of trying to downplay the issue. (Africa Studio/Shutterstock)

P.E.I.'s Health Minister Robert Henderson says the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, one of the province's main referral hospitals, has been shutting down beds in its mental health unit because it doesn't have enough psychiatrists some days to properly staff the unit.

"The situation is we don't have enough significant coverage to do rounds and do inpatient bed services, as well as provide all the other primary services that are required in psychiatry," Henderson said.

"And in this particular situation we've decided to not fill five particular beds for a short period of time, on a temporary basis, until we can get that coverage."

The issue was brought to the floor by the Official Opposition during the opening question period of the fall sitting of the provincial legislature.

Opposition: Long wait time and staff shortages

"It's obvious this premier hasn't been listening to Islanders. It's obvious that this premier hasn't been sitting down and talking to healthcare professions," said Opposition leader James Aylward.

"What they're telling us is about the long wait times for help because of staff shortages. They're telling us about staff burnout from trying to plug huge holes in systems."

"This is our number one priority as a government across the whole spectrum of health care and health services in this province," replied Premier Wade MacLauchlan.

"We're taking it seriously. We're putting the resources in place, we're putting new initiatives in place."

More psychiatrists coming to P.E.I. 

The Opposition tried repeatedly to get the premier and health minister to refer to the situation in mental health as a crisis, accusing them of trying to downplay the issue.

"If you're trying to recruit psychiatrists and health professionals in Prince Edward Island, calling the situation a crisis doesn't enhance our recruiting efforts," Henderson replied.

He said the province has signed agreements with two new psychiatrists, and another two have agreed to come to the province on locum.

"The reality is, it's a very, very competitive market out there trying to find psychiatrists," Henderson said, adding that compensation offered to psychiatrists is currently under review.

Henderson said he's hopeful all four psychiatrists will be on the Island by January, but said three are coming from outside Canada and there could be delays waiting for them to be approved for immigration.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kerry Campbell

Provincial Affairs Reporter

Kerry Campbell is the provincial affairs reporter for CBC P.E.I., covering politics and the provincial legislature. kerry.campbell@cbc.ca

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