A group of physician leaders at Prince County Hospital in Summerside, P.E.I., released a letter Friday morning supporting the continuation of general surgery there.
The letter is signed by nine heads of departments at the hospital. When contacted by CBC News, Dr. Steven MacNeill declined a follow-up interview, writing: "None of us are comfortable in the spotlight and are not comfortable giving interviews."
Of the letter, he said: "We are hopeful that this will provide you with the physicians' perspective for future coverage."
The status of surgeries at Prince County Hospital came to public attention earlier this month with the news that two of the hospital's three general surgeons were leaving.
This was quickly followed by an announcement that the hospital would not be able to provide general surgery coverage over the course of an extended weekend span, and for five days any major trauma cases would have to be diverted to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) in Charlottetown.
This raised questions about whether offering general surgery at two locations on P.E.I. is sustainable. In the letter sent Friday morning, the doctors insisted that it is.
"We as a medical staff do not support any move to centralize general surgery services to the QEH as we don't feel this increased distance would be safe for our patients (especially in western P.E.I.)," the doctors wrote.
Two strong hospitals needed: letter
They went on to question whether the Charlottetown hospital has the capacity to take on the extra work now handled in Summerside.
"Our provincial leadership have reassured us that the overall vitality and resiliency of our provincial healthcare system depends on having TWO thriving acute-care referral hospitals that continue to work together to support each other," they wrote.
The doctors also addressed questions about whether Prince County Hospital had the operating room support services that general surgeons need.
"Our OR nursing staff are superb, our ORs are state of the art, and our laparoscopic equipment is some of the most advanced in Atlantic Canada," the letter said.The hospital has physiotherapists, respiratory therapists and occupational therapists, they went on to say, an Intensive Care Unit, and local specialists in anesthesia, obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics, internal medicine, and otolaryngology.
The doctors are urging the province to increase the complement of general surgeons from three to four, in order to reduce on-call expectations.
The following doctors signed the letter.
Dr. Alfredo Campos, head of otolaryngology.
Dr. April MacPhee, head of pediatrics.
Dr. Brenda Keeping, head of anesthesia.
Dr. Hani Farag, head of obstetrics and gynecology.
Dr. Helga Reisch, president, medical staff.
Dr. John Morash, head of family medicine.
Dr. Michael Irvine, head of internal medicine.
Dr. Steven MacNeill, head of emergency medicine.
Dr. Tanya Gallant, head of psychiatry.
The doctors said they were not representing the views of Health PEI or the Department of Health in the letter, but were writing as a group of concerned local physicians.
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