Staffing shortage prompts ICU changes at Prince County Hospital
Most critically ill patients expected to be transferred to QEH, Health P.E.I. says
A shortage of internal medicine specialists has led to the closure of the intensive care unit at the Prince County Hospital in Summerside, P.E.I.
Health P.E.I. said the ICU has been transitioned into a progressive care unit.
An ICU requires the presence of internal medicine staff around the clock, Health P.E.I. said, but a PCU can be operated by family physicians, hospitalists and nursing staff.
It said an average of 4.2 patients per week are admitted to the former ICU at the Prince County Hospital, of which 80 per cent are identified as PCU level.
Patients who require intensive care will be stabilized and transferred to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Charlottetown.
"Currently, someone's really sick at PCH, they tend to be transferred to QEH," Dr. Michael Gardam, Health P.E.I.'s CEO, said in an interview with CBC.
"What we'll likely see as a result of this change is perhaps a few more patients a month being transferred to QEH. But for your average Islander, or average health-care worker, you're not really going to see any big difference here."
For your average Islander, or average health-care worker, you're not really going to see any big difference here.- Dr. Michael Gardam, Health P.E.I. CEO
Gardam said the intention is to increase services available at PCH over the long term, but the changes are needed now to maintain safe care for Islanders in the face of shortages of physicians, nurses and many other health-care professionals.
Change won't affect ER, Health P.E.I. says
There will be eight beds in the PCU, two more than there had been in the ICU. The new setup will be evaluated in the weeks and months ahead, including whether it is necessary to increase capacity at the QEH.
The ICU at the QEH has eight staffed beds, with 5.7 on average in use, according to Health P.E.I.
The change does not affect PCH's emergency department.
"It all depends on how sick the patients are," Gardam said.
"If you've seen in the movies, somebody's on a ventilator. They're intubated, on a ventilator breathing for them. Maybe they have multi-system organ failure. There's a bunch of pumps going to keep their blood pressure and stuff. That's your typical ICU patient. A progressive care patient will tend to have an issue in sort of one system — not multiple systems."
The closure of the ICU is not something anyone wanted, Gardam said, but the health-care system needs to adapt to provide the best possible care in the short term, while not burning out staff.
With files from Steve Bruce