The PEI health system may not be able to support medical school, doctors say

Before the medical school's long-term solution, the province must look to more short-term solutions, says Dr.  Krista Cassell.  (CBC - photo credit)

Before the medical school’s long-term solution, the province must look to more short-term solutions, says Dr. Krista Cassell. (CBC – photo credit)

The PEI Medical Society expresses concern about the healthcare system’s ability to support a medical school and welcomes a study into these needs.

Plans for medical school at UPEI were announced in 2021, with the first batch of students scheduled to begin classes in fall 2024.

dr Krista Cassell, President of the PEI’s Medical Society, said plans must be made by then to integrate these students into the local healthcare system for their education.

“We need documents to teach, we need spaces for students to study, we need staff to support them,” Cassell said.

“We need to know if we can support both our patients, their needs and our teaching commitments at this new medical school and deliver both with high quality. We fear that we may not be able to do this in our current situation.”

It’s already difficult to get the job done

A medical school is a long-term solution to the doctor shortage, Cassell said.

The students who start their studies in 2024 will not be ready to start their own practices until the 2030s.

In the meantime, the doctors currently working on PEI need to find time to help train the medical school students.

“Our medical system is struggling a little,” Cassell said.

“We are struggling with resources, we are struggling with space and infrastructure. Doctors are currently feeling that it’s a bit difficult to do the work that we need to do now.”

PEI’s population has grown at record speed. Meanwhile, information provided by the province in July shows that the number of doctors on the island has actually decreased.

The number of islanders in the patient registry has risen to 27,000 from around 24,000 in July.

Creating a plan

To answer questions about exactly how much support the healthcare system needs to provide students and what needs to be done to prepare, the university and the Healthcare PEI commissioned a study from an independent consultant.

“We are looking for a consulting company that not only answers what capacities we have today, but what capacities we will need tomorrow. What investments are required?” said Paul Young, Chief Operating Officer at UPEI School of Medicine at UPEI.



“Once we know what the needs are, we can create a plan to get there.”

Given the immediate healthcare needs and the stress a medical school will add, the province needs to consider more immediate solutions, Cassell said.

One thing the province could do, she said, is expand its residency program, the training that doctors go through after graduating from medical school to complete their training.

“Indeed, the current GP residency program on PEI has already proven to be a proven recruitment strategy,” said Cassell.

“Every year we train five doctors and we find that four of them stay in the province.”

The company wants this program to be expanded as soon as possible, she said.

The bidding for the Medical School Support Needs Study closes on February 27 and is expected to last four to six months.


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