'No gas in the engine' for rural health hubs, say critics

A rural health care advocate on P.E.I. is doubtful the government’s plan to create health care hubs can solve access problems for Islanders outside of Charlottetown and Summerside.

‘The problem is there's not enough doctors’

P.E.I. needs to work with other provinces to get more doctors trained, says Alan MacPhee. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

A rural health care advocate on P.E.I. is doubtful the government's plan to create health-care hubs can solve access problems for Islanders outside of Charlottetown and Summerside.

The government has launched a public consultation process on the hubs, which is expected to last about four weeks.

Alan MacPhee chairs the group Islandwide Hospital Access and said building the hubs does not address the key issues.

"They're playing with the dials, but there's no gas in the engine," said MacPhee.

"The problem is there's not enough doctors, and we're not training enough doctors in Canada. And they can create all the bureaucratic circles they like, but unless we have enough doctors, we're not going to have enough access to health care."

What the province needs to do, MacPhee argues, is get together with other governments and increase funding to medical schools to double the number of doctors being trained.

A solution for each unique community

Health Minister James Aylward said it is too early to say how many doctors the province might need to staff the rural health-care hubs. That will be a central part of the consultation process, he said.

Public consultation is critical and won't be rushed, says James Aylward. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

"Every community on P.E.I. is unique. You can't just cookie cut," said Aylward.

"What we're looking to really mine from the information as we go into public consultation, is to get a better understanding of the needs in specific communities."

Those needs may indicate more doctors, or perhaps specialized nursing services, he said.

Following the public consultations the province will move to community focus groups for more feedback.

Aylward said the province doesn't want to rush the process, but expects something will get started by the end of the year. He noted the province has set aside money in the capital budget, should actual bricks and mortar be required.

The rural health-care hubs were initially an idea from the Green Party's campaign, which was picked up by the minority Progressive Conservative government.

Opposition health critic Trish Altass said the Green Party has shared its work with the government, and it is up to the government now to determine what it will do with that.

Altass said input from the public will be critical to the process.

More from CBC P.E.I.


With files from Steve Bruce


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