FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 13, 2023
Statement from Karla Bernard: Spindle Report Reveals Troubling Details About New Medical School’s Ability to Address PEI’s Healthcare Crisis
Charlottetown, PE – The Spindle Report, a report prepared for UPEI and Health PEI on the feasibility of the UPEI medical school, reveals concerning details about the medical school’s ability to address our healthcare crisis, particularly our doctor shortage and ballooning patient registry. The report also reveals that the King government has all but abandoned Prince County Hospital (PCH) as part of both the medical school and the future of healthcare on PEI.
Since this report was written, just 6 months ago, our patient registry has grown by more than 5,000 people. Currently, more than 20% of Islanders don’t have a family doctor. We need to address this issue, we need more doctors, but is a medical school really the answer?
The medical school estimates that in 10 years (by 2033) it could produce 12-18 doctors for PEI. In 2023, the PC government contributed $21.9 million taxpayer dollars to establish the medical school. That’s already more than a million dollars for each physician the school plans to produce for PEI in the next ten years and the doors haven’t even opened yet. How many millions will each of these doctors cost our system? Is a million dollars a doctor really good value for money?
Finding a solution to this complex issue isn’t easy, but there are practical steps we could take that would be more effective and less expensive. One key solution is to increase the number of residency seats. When students from Dalhousie do their residency on PEI, most of them, 4 out of 5, stay and set up a practice here. Additionally, PEI turns down around 37% of residency requests, indicating government has underinvested in expanding residency seats.
By creating more residency spaces, we could potentially boost the number of family physicians within a few years, especially considering an 80% retention rate. To start, government should incentivize our already busy physicians by offering fair compensation. Right now, PEI doctors receive lower compensation compared to those in other provinces for taking on residency students. If we increased their pay, it could encourage more doctors to mentor students, ultimately leading to retaining more of them. All of this could be done without a medical school and offers far better value for money.
Yet, beyond fiscal concerns, the report exposes a glaringly centralized approach in government’s planning, notably sidelining the development and incorporation of medical education within PCH. The report states there are limited opportunities for re-envisioning the PCH infrastructure to allow for medical students and educators to work at this hospital, which is bad news for Islanders hoping for a full service hospital in Western PEI. While the QEH is getting investments and state of the art upgrades, the PCH is being left behind.
This oversight risks exacerbating existing gaps in physician coverage at the PCH. The report found that at the PCH, 31 physicians are handling the additional workload of 50-60 healthcare vacancies. Islanders have seen the effects of this with the recent ICU closure, which has been closed for almost seven months and shows no signs of ever reopening. The evident lack of plans to integrate medical students into PCH raises pressing questions about the hospital’s future under Premier King’s administration.
This report, which was obtained through FOIPP, is yet another example of the King government’s attempts to push through projects, hide the facts, and silence any valid concerns from Islanders, physicians and the university community regarding the medical school. It’s clear that Premier King is more concerned with having a personal legacy project than actually getting more doctors for Islanders, especially those in Western PEI. A medical school may bring Islanders more doctors in a decade, but at what cost?
Leader of the Third Party
MLA Charlottetown-Victoria Park
To read the full report: Current State Findings Report (Spindle Report)
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Office of the Third Party
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