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Premier Dennis King has made clear his government’s policy for physician recruitment: Give up. “In his State of the Province (Thone) speech, King argued that it was not realistic for all Islanders to have a family doctor” (The Guardian, Feb. 23, 2021).
Let’s take a look at the implications of King’s bold “realistic and optimistic” health policy going forward:
- Some Islanders will have a family doctor, others will not. The Premier has yet to detail his decision as to which Islanders will be granted a family physician.
- The two remaining functional rural hospitals, Western in Alberton and Kings County Memorial in Montague, will close. The symbolic 'H' sign may remain, but without essential physicians, emergency rooms and acute care services will terminate.
- Queen Elizabeth and Prince County Hospitals, the Island’s two remaining facilities providing acute care and ER services, resulting from King’s policy to give up on physicians will face extended ER wait times and acute care bed shortages as rural Islanders are forced to seek ER and acute care services only available in Charlottetown and Summerside.
All members of the health care team are very important to provide thorough and efficient patient-centred care collaboratively and seamlessly. The development of full-service health care centers with diabetic education and mental health care are proving their value in maintaining and enhancing the quality of life for Islanders.
Whether termed medical homes, neighbourhoods, or health care hubs, full utilization of the health care team, including nurse practitioners, to provide all health services equitably across the Island is the way to go, but rural Islanders also should be afforded ERs at acute care hospitals. These services will not continue if Premier King follows through on his policies.
Given the present constrained access to medical service at Western and Kings County Memorial Hospitals, it appears that the King government’s committed failure to address the physician shortage will lead to the closure of all Island rural hospitals.
Adding to the failure to address rural public transportation, high-speed internet access, now the closure of rural hospitals will be the King government legacy.
Dr. Herb Dickieson,