P.E.I. health businesses weigh pros, cons of opening on Monday's holiday

·4 min read
Patients have already been waiting longer than normal for dental appointments, so Riverview Dental in Charlottetown said it will be open on the Monday statutory holiday.  (Elaine Thompson/The Associated Press - image credit)
Patients have already been waiting longer than normal for dental appointments, so Riverview Dental in Charlottetown said it will be open on the Monday statutory holiday. (Elaine Thompson/The Associated Press - image credit)

Prince Edward Island businesses have had a tough decision to make this week after the provincial government made Monday a statutory holiday in honour of Queen Elizabeth's funeral — the only province in Canada to do so.

Other provinces have declared a holiday for government employees but have not made it mandatory for businesses to either close or pay their staff extra for working the stat.

For medical care providers who have patient appointments booked months in advance, the surprise holiday will be costly and has been difficult to manage.

"We're going to take it on the chin, like we have been for the last few years as small business owners, and essentially we'll either work for free or have to be out money at the end of the day," said Dr. Brad Campbell, a dentist and one of the owners of Riverview Dental in Charlottetown.

His office will be open Monday.

"We had to make that decision and that's what we chose to do. Whether that's taking the high road or taking the low road, I'm not sure," he said.

Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC
Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC

Monday's holiday means Prince Edward Island employers now have three statutory holidays to deal with this month; the other two being Labour Day on Sept. 5 and the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on Sept. 30.

In the health-care field, after years of coping with COVID-19 restrictions and now ongoing staffing shortages, some patients have already been waiting months for appointments.

Whether that's taking the high road or taking the low road, I'm not sure — Dr. Brad Campbell, a dentist whose office will stay open

Campbell said he and his colleagues didn't have the heart to cancel Monday's appointments, given patients holding them couldn't be rebooked until the spring of 2023.

He said the clinic was concerned about its reputation and providing quality care.

"We're going to stay open for the sake of our patients."

'Looking forward to a long weekend'

Sports Centre Physiotherapy in Charlottetown, on the other hand, has decided to close Monday.

That has meant added work for staff this week, including rebooking appointments, and will mean extra-busy days next week to make up for the missed day.

Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC
Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC

"It was a bit of a logistical dilemma to get things rearranged [and] resorted," said centre owner and physiotherapist Colin Moore. "But certainly today, now that all those things are arranged, we're looking forward to a long weekend."

Moore said that in the end, Monday's holiday was a good opprtunity to offer his staff a little break.

Perhaps I'm not a brilliant businessman, but I was thinking more of the relationship and thinking about how would the staff feel. — Colin Moore, whose physiotherapy clinic will close

"Perhaps I'm not a brilliant businessman, but I was thinking more of the relationship and thinking about how would the staff feel," he said.

"To make people come in on a day they could potentially have off, that may create some ill will or some resentment ... From a standpoint of goodwill and the company culture, I think it was the best decision."

Officials with Health P.E.I. say their administrative offices will be closed, but medical appointments and services at Island health centres will go ahead as planned, and doctor's offices managed by Health P.E.I. have been asked to stay open.

They said anyone with appointments with an independent fee-for-service physician should call ahead and confirm whether the booking is still valid.

'One-in-a-century event'

In a statement to CBC News on Thursday, the Dennis King government said it respects there will be added costs for some businesses from this statutory holiday, but there was no time to consult businesses organizations as the  province normally would.

"This is a once-in-a-century event and it's important that as many Islanders as possible have the opportunity to pay their respects to Her Majesty," the statement said.

"The opportunity to mourn the passing of our sovereign should be something that's not just afforded to those fortunate enough to work for the government, but instead afforded to as many workers as possible."