Health minister asks for new psychiatrists as more than 1,000 seek appointments
Some on the wait list being reassessed, says Health PEI
Prince Edward Island Health Minister James Aylward says he wrote to the province's physician resource planning committee Tuesday seeking approval for another 5.8 full-time equivalent positions for psychiatrists.
That would represent an increase of more than a third above the current complement of 15 positions.
Aylward's move was in response to a ballooning wait list for psychiatric appointments.
A spokesperson for Health PEI said 1,016 Islanders had been referred to a psychiatrist but hadn't been able to see one.
There was no immediate information provided regarding how long those people have been waiting. Health PEI said it has asked doctors to reassess patients they referred to a psychiatrist prior to December. 2018.
Now booking for 2020
Aylward said some newly referred patients likely wouldn't see a psychiatrist before 2020.
"I'm extremely disappointed. I don't think it's acceptable," said Aylward. "We're taking measures to address this serious issue."
Aylward said Health PEI has hired a psychiatric nurse to go over all the patient files involved.
"The important thing to remember too is the triage is very, very crucial," he said. "The very serious cases are being seen right away and a lot of times people will self-refer to to the emergency department. And we do have on-call psychiatry at the emergency department."
A spokesperson for Health PEI said of 200 files which had been reassessed so far, 67 patients were determined to not need further psychiatric evaluation.
"They had either received help from their family physician and/or access to other mental health services," said the spokesperson.
Can't imagine 'the frustration and fear'
The Green Party's health critic Trish Altass said she couldn't imagine "the frustration and fear and the impact on the daily lives of individuals" who had been referred to a psychiatrist to deal with mental health issues but were unable to get an appointment.
It's not the first time the call has gone out for P.E.I. to increase its complement of psychiatrists. In 2013, the head of the P.E.I. Psychiatric Association asked the province to increase the complement to 20, saying the complement then of 15 was "well below any kind of national guideline" and made it difficult to provide the required service.
Altass said an ongoing shortage of psychiatrists has contributed to P.E.I.'s "mental health crisis."
She also said it could be a challenge for the province to recruit psychiatrists if it agrees to create the new positions.