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P.E.I. doctors warn of potential health-care 'system collapse'

The system is currently running on the good will of the people in it, says Dr. Krista Cassell. (Brittany Spencer - image credit)
The system is currently running on the good will of the people in it, says Dr. Krista Cassell. (Brittany Spencer - image credit)

The Medical Society of P.E.I. is calling on all parties in the current election campaign to make commitments to take urgent action to save the  province's health-care system.

Krista Cassell, president of the Medical Society of P.E.I., said the system has been running on the goodwill of the people working in it, and that's not sustainable.

"To do the extra work, to go above and beyond, and to really make things work, and we're really just running out of runway here. People are tired, people are frustrated, it's very hard to get your job done every day in this system," said Cassell.

"We're losing people, we're losing practitioners, because they're so fed up."

In a news release Thursday titled "P.E.I. doctors call for urgent action to stop healthcare system collapse," the society outlined a three-part plan:

  • Reduce inequities in health and health care across P.E.I.

  • Make health care a healthy place to work.

  • Be bold and innovative and do it with speed.

Under reducing inequities, in addition to ensuring all Islanders have access to primary care, the society called for a guaranteed annual income. It noted people with lower incomes have shorter life expectancies, and that the number of people living in poverty on P.E.I. is higher than the national average.

The healthy place to work section focused on what the society described as a heavy burden of administrative work on doctors.

"We spent about a quarter to a third of our time on administrative work that doesn't involve direct patient care," said Cassell.

"Some of these tasks, another person would be better suited to do. But the way that we've developed our systems, the tools that we have to use, make it so that the task falls to the physician."

The society estimates that P.E.I. doctors spend 67,895 hours a year on unnecessary administrative work. Freeing physicians from these tasks would be the equivalent of bringing 26 new doctors into the system.

'We could be very nimble'

On being bold and innovative, the society wants to see fewer barriers for recruiting physicians. It called for the expansion of the medical residency program starting in the next academic year.

The society noted four out of five medical residents go on to practice in the province.

"We're a small province, we could be very nimble," said Cassell.

"We need good, bold leadership, people who can see good possibilities."