'The uncertainty is very stressful': Health care access in Summerside a major concern for some

Carrie Caunce checks on some spots on her face she has concerns about. (Steve Bruce/CBC - image credit)
Carrie Caunce checks on some spots on her face she has concerns about. (Steve Bruce/CBC - image credit)

As a breast cancer survivor, Carrie Caunce takes her health very seriously.

It's why she booked an appointment with her family physician — Dr. Syed Naqvi — to check out some spots on her skin she's worried about.

However, Caunce got a text this week saying her appointment was cancelled, and Dr. Naqvi's clinic has been closed all month.

The sign on his door says he's off until further notice. No other details have been provided.

"The uncertainty is very stressful. Is this a long-term situation? Is this a short-term situation?" Caunce said. "What should we do? You know, I was going to see the doctor because I do have some concerns. Who now do I take those concerns to?"

Steve Bruce/CBC
Steve Bruce/CBC

Officials with Health P.E.I. said that it's not in a position to say why Dr. Naqvi's clinic is closed, or when it may re-open.

That's because Naqvi is a fee-for-service doctor, not a salaried employee of Health P.E.I.

Naqvi has about 3,000 patients. He also runs Summerside's only walk-in clinic, which is shut down now as well.

The clinic in nearby Wellington has been closed for months because of staffing issues.

"The message I was given was that I could go to the emergency, or a walk-in clinic in Charlottetown," Caunce said.

"Well, I live an hour away from Charlottetown. So that's not always the most convenient. And I just don't think going to the emergency is a really viable alternative, given our emergency seems to be very overwhelmed at the current time."

Steve Bruce/CBC
Steve Bruce/CBC

A few days ago, patients waiting at the Summerside ER were given a clear sign of that.

Staff at the PCH handed out copies of a letter stating the department was so backed up that 90 per cent of the ER beds were taken up by patients waiting on a bed elsewhere in the hospital.

People needing care were told to consider other options if they had them, like a family doctor, walk-in clinic or pharmacy.

There were over 29,500 Islanders on a waiting list for a doctor as of April 17, 2023 according to the province's website.

ER doctor Steven McNeill wrote the letter.

"Like every square inch of space that we can find to put a patient we were using," Dr. MacNeill said.

"It wasn't about telling people to go away or not come to the ER, it's meant to help explain why when they do go to the ER, there may be long waits. Just to try to update people so they are not getting more and more frustrated."

Steve Bruce/CBC
Steve Bruce/CBC

In the legislature on Friday, P.E.I's Health Minister Mark McLane, called the situation unfortunate, though he offered no immediate fixes.

For Caunce it's hard not to worry right now about her own health, and the state of health care in the province.

"Since, finding this out I have found myself very anxious — and I know I am not the only one," Caunce said.