P.E.I. hopes to cut list of people without family doctors in half in 2 years

·3 min read
The P.E.I. government held a briefing Tuesday to discuss the future of health care on the Island.  (Steve Bruce/CBC News - image credit)
The P.E.I. government held a briefing Tuesday to discuss the future of health care on the Island. (Steve Bruce/CBC News - image credit)

The P.E.I. government hopes the introduction of new medical homes and neighbourhoods will cut the number of people on the province's patient registry in half within two years.

There are now more than 20,000 people on the patient registry — which shows the number of people in the province without a family doctor or nurse practitioner.

Dr. Kathie McNally, the chief medical officer for Health PEI, said the new system will hopefully reduce the number of people on the waiting list significantly.

"Our hope is that eventually every Islander will have access to a patient medical home and patient medical neighbourhood," said McNally.

"That's going to take time."

On Tuesday, the province rolled out more details about what the future of health care will look like on the Island, specifically these new medical homes and neighbourhoods.

The plan is to introduce a more team-based approach to primary health care by having practices made up of multiple medical professionals working together to care for patients.

"I don't think patients need to be necessarily seeing a physician to then be referred to another health care professional," said McNally.

"A patient medical home can get you to the right professional when you need to see them for the right issue."

Health-care workers needed

Previous governments have tried this kind of approach in the past with little success. But health officials are optimistic this time will be different.

"Every time we roll something out, we learn what has worked well and what hasn't worked so well," said Corinne Rowswell, the chief operating officer for Health PEI.

"Patients are more complex than they have been before and I think it takes all of those providers working together to enhance care in the community."

Steve Bruce/CBC News
Steve Bruce/CBC News

McNally knows there will be challenges along the way. For starters, she said more health-care professionals must be recruited and "we're in competition with the rest of Canada right now to do that."

The province has approved more than $8 million to hire 50 additional health-care workers.

So far, P.E.I. has hired five new family doctors with three more starting in the winter. Six nurse practitioners have also been hired in the last two months.

'Just the beginning'

In addition to hiring, P.E.I. has also OK'd more than $63 million over the next five years for infrastructure to help make the medical homes a reality.

"That's for the development of keyspace that we do need as we evolve and as we build resources in the community," said Rowswell.

"We also have aging infrastructure across P.E.I. that we really need to enhance and make more accessible and appealing for people to seek care."

Regardless of the challenges in the way, the government is trudging on. It said it hopes to have five teams in place by March with the first two rolling out in the Charlottetown and East Prince areas.

The ultimate goal, however, is to have the Island covered from tip to tip.

"That's just the beginning and we'll be continuing to build after that," said Rowswell.

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