P.E.I. party leaders offer ideas on health care as election campaign gets rolling

CHARLOTTETOWN — Prince Edward Island is a small province with limited resources, so it needs to innovate as it competes with other jurisdictions to attract health-care professionals, Progressive Conservative Leader Dennis King said Tuesday.

On the first full day of campaigning ahead of the April 3 provincial election, King noted that a provincial delegation is heading to Dubai this week to recruit 35 health workers to relieve pressure on the province's strained system.

"And we're like everybody else, we're trying to recruit across the country, across North America. It's a competitive field for sure," King said in an interview during a campaign stop in Summerside, P.E.I.

"We’re a small jurisdiction, we don't have deep pockets," he added. "We have to be innovative. And that's what we've been doing."

Green Party Leader Peter Bevan-Baker said a key to getting health-care professionals to stay in the province is making their wages competitive.

The province has spent a lot of money recruiting health-care professionals to Prince Edward Island, he said in an interview at his party office in Charlottetown. "But they do not stay."

"I look at the problems in the health-care system. And I see a system which is crumbling, which is unravelling in front of me. I don't think there is one … silver bullet to solve all the problems."

Prince Edward Island is not the affordable place it used to be, he added, noting an increase in housing costs.

"I do think that if government were to make the wages more competitive — and I'm not just talking here, about doctors, I'm talking about all of the front-line health-care workers — I think If we were to boost their wages to be competitive with other places, I think that would be a first step towards people feeling respected and valued."

Health care is expected to be a central issue during the four-week campaign. Liberal Leader Sharon Cameron has an announcement planned Wednesday on her party's plan to expand Islanders’ access to physicians.

King said that during its four years in power his government sought multi-faceted solutions to problems in health care. The Progressive Conservatives have hired doctors, expanded primary care access sites, built community health centres, and partnered with post-secondary institutions to train more health-care providers, he said.

At dissolution, the Conservatives held 15 of the legislature's 27 seats, the Greens had eight and the Liberals held four.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 7, 2023.

Hina Alam, The Canadian Press