Summerside patients are urging the province to act quickly after losing their GP

Bev Cornish was

Bev Cornish was “devastated” when she received a letter from her GP, Dr. Hal McRae, informing her that he was closing his general practice in Summerside. (Steve Bruce/CBC – photo credit)

After learning their doctor is closing their Summerside practice due to “increasingly challenging” issues with PEI’s healthcare system, some patients are calling on the province to get involved and fix the problems quickly.

dr Hal McRae sent a Feb. 7 letter to his patients, saying he had made the “very difficult and heartbreaking decision” to close his practice on April 20.

“It has become increasingly difficult to care for patients within the current system and for me it is no longer sustainable,” he wrote.

The doctor’s 2,100 patients will be added to the PEI registry of more than 27,400 people already awaiting a GP.

CBC/Steve Bruce

CBC/Steve Bruce

Bev Cornish became McRae’s patient four years ago after her original GP retired. She was devastated to receive his letter earlier this month.

“The fact that he’s not getting the support he needs to keep his practice going is not good. It is wrong. The government needs to step up and fix the problem,” she said.

“There are some serious issues there that need to be addressed. And to lose a young, successful doctor in the crisis we are going through is unbelievable.”

Cornish has launched a letter campaign urging islanders to write to Premier Dennis King and Health Secretary Ernie Hudson asking the province to give McRae the support he needs.

“He could be the game changer for the healthcare system if we manage it properly and support him in all his needs,” she said. “Maybe he’ll come back.”

Steve Bruce/CBC

Steve Bruce/CBC

Another of McRae’s patients, Paul White, had a heart attack just weeks ago and said he was “absolutely overwhelmed” by the news that his doctor is leaving. But he says the signs were there.

“I could see the strain on him. I could see the pressure on him. I was worried about him and I told him,” he said.

“If there’s something they could do to help him, or something they could do to help all of us make the system better for everyone; if they could make the clinics more structurally useful than they are, it would help the doctors, I think it would help the people.”

Steve Bruce/CBC

Steve Bruce/CBC

In a statement to CBC News on Monday, Health PEI said it offers options for “support and assistance for physicians who have identified concerns, including working through various possible models including joining teams, transitioning to part-time work, staff support and various other options to suit the needs of both the islanders and the doctor.”

The agency also said it recognizes doctors have been challenged with high workloads and sustainability and hopes to reverse that by developing more of its medical facilities, where doctors are just one part of a team of healthcare professionals.

“We need to do more and faster,” said Dr. Krista Cassell, the President of the Medical Society of the PEI, in a statement emailed to CBC News. “Finding more opportunities to try new things and ensuring physicians spend more time caring for patients and less time on administrative tasks are two examples.”

“There is an election”

More is needed for White and Cornish, and fast.

“The system needs to be overhauled. I don’t think saying ‘we’re packing’ is good enough anymore,” White said.

“My message to Government is that there’s probably an election coming up very soon and we need the Prime Minister to get on top of that and get a handle on that and fix that,” Cornish said.


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