Reverse arthritis specialist decision, minister urged

Reverse arthritis specialist decision, minister urged

A day after P.E.I. Health Minister Doug Currie said government will not hire a second rheumatologist to treat Islanders with arthritis the standing committee on health urged government to do just that.

In its report, the health committee noted the Canadian Rheumatology Association says there should be one rheumatologist per 70,000 population. With a population of 145,000, P.E.I. should then have two.

Currie said Wednesday he would not be hiring a second rheumatologist, following a recommendation from the province’s physician resource planning committee.

But now the Arthritis Society is also calling on the minister to hire a second rheumatologist.

It says Currie got some of his numbers wrong when he told the Legislature Wednesday there would be no second arthritis doctor.

Currie said 150 Islanders travelled off-Island for treatment. Nick Langley, public affairs manager for the Arthritis Society in Atlantic Canada, told CBC News according to Health PEI's billing information the number last year was actually 262.

Even more concerning, said Langley, is that three quarters of Islanders with inflammatory arthritis did not see a specialist last year.

“Only about a quarter of the people who need to see a rheumatologist are being seen by a rheumatologist,” he said.

“I've heard from many Islanders from all over the Island that the cost to seek treatment is a barrier to access.”

The society says 4,100 Islanders have inflammatory arthritis, and fewer than 1,000 saw a rheumatologist in 2013.

Langley said the Arthritis Society wants to see an impact study if the province remains with one rheumatologist. Currie has said he will table the report in the Legislature.