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March 19, 2013
For immediate release

Better Access, Better Care for all Islanders

Health and Wellness

Better Access, Better Care means improving access to health care in Prince Edward Island by keeping emergency rooms open, reducing patient wait times, strengthening our health care facilities and providing better health care for Islanders and their families, says Health and Wellness Minister Doug Currie.

“Every person in Prince Edward Island uses our health care system, so we need it to be as efficient as possible and we need it to be focused on our patients and their needs,” said Minister Currie. “The mix of services currently provided at our hospital facilities has not kept pace with the changing needs of our population. Improvements are necessary to ensure that Islanders have access to the services they require, when they need them most.”

Every health care facility in Prince Edward Island has an important role to play in making the system work efficiently. By refocusing the roles of the facilities, government can enhance efficiencies, increase patient flow, and provide more timely access to acute-care beds.

Throughout the next several months, the roles of community hospitals will be refocused, increases will be made to the Island’s emergency vehicle fleet, the first Collaborative Emergency Centre will be established at Western Hospital, and a new 8-1-1- Telehealth system will be implemented province wide. In addition, government has announced that dialysis services will continue at all four Island locations – Alberton, Summerside, Charlottetown and Souris.

“By focusing the roles of our community hospitals and enhancing our emergency care services, we will improve access to emergency care, general practitioners, elective surgeries and long term care – four of government’s priority health care commitments,” said Minister Currie. “This is about better access and better care for Islanders.”

Over the next month, community meetings will be held across the province to further explain the system changes. Details can also be found online at or by calling 1 800-236-5196.


Government’s Speech from the Throne, outlined five priorities to improve health care for Islanders:

• Improving access to emergency services

• Improving access to general practitioners

• Improving access to mental health and addiction services

• Improving access to long term care, and

• Improving access to elective surgeries

These priority areas are about Better Access and Better Care for Islanders.

Re-focusing Community Hospitals

“Right now, on an average day, we have approximately 80 ALC patients occupying acute care beds in the province,” said Minister Currie. “We need to protect our acute-care beds for our most sick Islanders.”

To help protect our acute-care hospital beds for our most sick Islanders, we need to increase access to long term care (LTC) and alternate level of care (ALC) beds – the ALC beds are allocated for people who no longer need the high level of care that an acute-care hospital provides, but still need assistance such as respite, palliative, restorative or convalescent care.

To ease these pressures, some beds in our community facilities will become alternative level of care and long term care beds. This will help to get patients the care that is right for them, increase patient flow, and free up acute-care beds for our most sick Islanders – the people who need them the most.

To accomplish this, Stewart Memorial Hospital will provide care for 23 long term care beds.

Community Hospital O’Leary and Souris Hospital will provide care for ALC patients.

Western Hospital in Alberton and Kings County Memorial Hospital in Montague will provide acute care and other services.

Prince County Hospital in Summerside and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Charlottetown will remain the two main acute care facilities.

Increasing the Emergency Care Fleet

“This will result in better emergency response for all Islanders,” said Minister Currie.

Government will introduce a new transfer unit. This unit will be used specifically to transfer patients from one facility to another – helping to keep our community ambulances in our communities.

Two new rapid response units, one for eastern PEI and one for the west, will also be added to the fleet. These units will station a fully trained emergency care professional in the community, who can respond to a 911 call immediately – most times they can begin treatment even before the ambulance arrives.

IEMS will determine the exact hours and locations of these new vehicles based on frequency of calls.

Together, these two new services will improve overall response times and ramp up emergency services in the east and the west.

New Collaborative Emergency Centre at Western Hospital

“For West Prince residents, this will mean stable emergency care and more access to family doctors,” said Minister Currie.

Over the next several months, Western Hospital in Alberton will implement the first ever Collaborative Emergency Centre in Prince Edward Island. During the day, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., 7 days per week, the Emergency Department will operate with a Nurse and an ER physician as it currently does. Throughout the overnight, the ER will become a Collaborative Emergency Centre with two health professionals working collaboratively on site and in constant contact via telephone with an ER physician – similar to the Collaborative Emergency Centre (CEC) model in Nova Scotia.

The new model will ensure that the doors at Western Hospital remain open 24 hours a day.

Statistics show that there are very few presentations to the Western Hospital ER throughout the overnight. Concentrating resources during the hours when the vast majority of patients are accessing care will better meet the needs of the community.

In addition, the new model will free up family doctors and allow for approximately 140 additional patient visits per week – that’s 7,500 appointments a year – the equivalent of having another full time family physician in the region.

Dialysis Services

“We are pleased with the dialysis services currently in place across the province, and we are committed to continuing those services,” said Minister Currie.

Over the past several months, Health PEI officials have been doing an extensive review of dialysis services in PEI, and the future needs of Islanders.

There has been a steady increase in the need for dialysis in Prince Edward Island, with a 75% growth since 2009. With rising rates of diabetes and heart disease in the province, both of which contribute to kidney failure, the demand for dialysis services is expected to increase.

Over the past several months, Health PEI has been conducting an internal review of dialysis services in Prince Edward Island and planning for the future needs of Islanders. Today, Government has committed to continue dialysis treatment at all four locations across the province – Alberton, Summerside, Charlottetown and Souris.

Over the past few years, Government has made significant investments and expansions to meet the growing demand in dialysis services. Additional nephrologists have been added to the complement of physicians in the province, and seat and appointment capacity has grown by approximately 250% with two new state of the art centres at QEH and PCH.

8-1-1 Telehealth

“It will be as easy as picking up your telephone to get health advice in Prince Edward Island,” said Minister Currie. “Telehealth will provide Islanders with health advice when and where they need it, 24 hours a day 365 days a year. It is about utilizing information and communication technology to make our healthcare services more accessible for Islanders.”

Just three numbers, 8-1-1, and you will have access to non-emergency health information and services.

Telehealth is a free, confidential telephone service you can call to get health advice or general health information.

That means quick, easy access to a health professional, who can assess your symptoms and help you decide the best next step for you. Telehealth can help you decide whether to care for yourself, make an appointment with your doctor, go to a walk-in clinic, contact a community service or go to an emergency room.

Telehealth will improve the use of our health system by providing you with access to experienced health advice 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

When you call 811, a nurse will give you the advice and information you need and provide reassurance concerning all kinds of general health issues and questions.

Prince Edward Island will partner with Nova Scotia to implement the 811. The service will be available in multiple languages through French-speaking bilingual nurses as well as an on-demand, third-party translation service.

A call to Telehealth does not replace 911 — that's always the first number you should call in emergency situations.

Media Contact: Autumn Tremere
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