Tignish doctor leaving 14 months after arriving in P.E.I.

·4 min read
Dr. Peter Entwistle says he is not retiring and will be looking for work elsewhere, 'but not in P.E.I.'  (Dan Walton/Times-Chronicle - image credit)
Dr. Peter Entwistle says he is not retiring and will be looking for work elsewhere, 'but not in P.E.I.' (Dan Walton/Times-Chronicle - image credit)

A doctor who has been practising medicine in the community of Tignish in western Prince Edward Island for a little more than a year says he is leaving the province.

Dr. Peter Entwistle said last year that he was looking for the right place to set up his practice and believed he had found it in Tignish.

Entwistle would not do a taped interview about his departure, but in a telephone call with CBC News Monday, he said he was not retiring, not sick and not being dismissed.

He added that he is leaving without another job to go to and will be looking for work elsewhere, "but not in P.E.I."

In a follow-up phone call Tuesday, Entwistle said he hopes to meet with P.E.I.'s health minister, Ernie Hudson, to discuss his concerns regarding his experience of working in the province.

Health P.E.I. says the doctor's departure leaves more than 2,000 patients without a family doctor.

Entwistle began seeing patients at the Tignish Co-op Health Centre, a community-owned health-care centre, in February 2021.

'It does cause some concern'

"Where I'm working at the moment, Tignish, is a really great place to work," he told CBC News in an interview at the time.

Tignish Co-op Health Centre
Tignish Co-op Health Centre

Entwistle trained as a doctor in the U.K. but immigrated to Canada in part because of his frustrations with the health-care system there. He settled in British Columbia.

But his frustrations continued — so much so that he ran for a seat in the B.C. Legislature as an independent to draw attention to some of the problems he saw with the system in that province.

The issue of Entwistle's departure made it to the floor of the P.E.I. Legislature on Friday.

Hal Perry, MLA for Tignish-Palmer Road, said he was told that Entwistle was retiring.

He said the loss of the community's only doctor will be felt throughout the western P.E.I. community.

"It does cause some concern," Perry told reporters. "People want to have medical services provided locally.

Position has been posted

"But my understanding is that Health P.E.I. and the health-care centre staff, the board and the administrator, are working very hard together to replace and recruit that doctor as soon as possible."

Rick Gibbs/CBC
Rick Gibbs/CBC

The province's health minister would not get into details about why Entwistle was leaving, citing privacy reasons.

"The position has been posted for the family doctor position out of the Tignish health centre and, as well, the coverage, right through the summer, by locums has been arranged at this point in time," Hudson told CBC News.

"There are nurse practitioners that are available at the Tignish health clinic as well as other services provided there."

Health P.E.I. also refused to say why Entwistle was leaving and whether he received any incentives to come to the province.

"We cannot comment on direct personnel issues or incentives received by individuals," a spokesperson said in a statement to CBC News.

'A little surprised'

Wendy Arsenault, manager of the Tignish Co-op Health Centre, agreed that the medical centre has coverage, through replacement doctors and nurse practitioners, for the foreseeable future.

Wendy Arsenault
Wendy Arsenault

"I was a little surprised, and we were a little disappointed," said Arsenault of the departure.

She added that Health P.E.I. is looking for a full-time physician, and, "I have complete faith that they will find one."

As to why Entwistle is leaving, Arsenault said she was told the doctor was retiring.

Told what Entwistle said about not retiring and not working in P.E.I., Arsenault said, "That is absolutely news to me, because what he conveyed to me was that he was retiring."

'Cautiously optimistic'

The Medical Society of Prince Edward Island said in a statement: "Whenever a physician makes the decision to leave Prince Edward Island, it is disappointing but a very personal decision. We will work closely with our health-care partners to determine if there's anything to learn from these scenarios for future recruitment and retention improvements."

Submitted by Dr. Peter Entwistle
Submitted by Dr. Peter Entwistle

Entwistle's last day is Friday.

Health P.E.I. says patients should not register on the patient registry for fear of losing their spot should a new doctor be hired.

Arsenault said the doctor did only limited coverage at the nearby Western Hospital emergency department, so the impact to the local hospital is expected to be minimal.

Entwistle challenges that, saying he cared for a third to a half of all in-patients at the Alberton hospital, adding, "my leaving will undoubtedly have an impact on both ER and inpatient care, which I really regret."

As for the health minister, Hudson said he's confident a doctor will be found for Tignish.

"I am cautiously optimistic, but optimistic, that that position will be filled," he said.

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