When staff consultation began for a new Kings County Memorial Hospital, the conversations were expected to wrap up by July.
But that process is headed into winter.
Corinne Rowswell, the chief operating officer for Health P.E.I., said many groups still need to be consulted.
"Those things take time and we'd rather get it [as] close to right as we can," Rowswell said.
A new Kings County Memorial Hospital was announced in the province's 2021 capital budget, with $13.3 million set aside over five years for planning. Construction is expected to start in 2025.
Rowswell said that Health P.E.I. is now in the final stages of early planning with physicians, staff and Health P.E.I.'s leadership. RPG, a national consultant group, is also involved in the planning.
"What they do is they look at all of our population needs, our projected population growth — we know in P.E.I. we've had significant population growth over the last few years," Rowswell said.
"That gets taken into consideration and based on our population health needs and those projections as well, in terms of determining what future service looks like."
Keeping services close to home
Some of those things have already been determined.
The 30 beds at the hospital will stay. With a growing number of young immigrant families, there are plans to invest in obstetric care.
But Rowswell said the feedback from staff has been two-pronged.
"They have a lot of pride in the work that they do, and a lot of skill and training and they want to see that continue," she said. "They want to deliver as many services as they can close to home."
At the same time, staff understand they can only do so much with the resources available locally.
"So would we ever have a full surgical suite with neurosurgery happening at Kings County? That's very unlikely," said Rowswell.
But it could be feasible to expand diagnostic imaging and X-ray services.
"Closer diagnostics means that you're not waiting," she said. "You're not having to send people out and then duplicating the efforts."
Because of Kings County's largely rural population, ambulance services and community health care are also on the table.
While it may sound like a lot of delays and long discussions, Rowswell said that's all part of the process.
"We are planning for the future here," she said. "This isn't 2-3 years down the road. This is going to set the direction for how health services are delivered."
Corinne Rowswell is Health P.E.I.'s chief operating officer. (Brittany Spencer/CBC)
Rowswell said the planning even involves looking far ahead to see who is coming down the pipeline.
"Are the seats filled in the schools? Do we need to be going to high schools to really actively recruit in the health-care field," Rowswell said. "This isn't doctors, nurses, this is everybody that it takes to run a system as well."
Meanwhile, Charlottetown's QEH is also being redeveloped.
"One impacts the other," said Rowswell. "So when there's a conversation that happens at one facility then you go back, and we're doing that together."
Once the staff consultations wrap up, community consultations are expected to begin sometime in 2024 with an online survey.
Rowswell said many things are still being decided. Once consultations are complete, Health P.E.I. will request budget approval from the government based on its preliminary plans.
But even then, adapting to the community's needs are key.
"Things can change really quickly. We've seen that over the last couple of years. So we want to be nimble enough and have it flexible enough if things don't happen the way we hope they happen."