‘How on earth’ can we free up doctors to teach at medical school, asks Health PEI CEO

A medical school at the University of Prince Edward Island may eventually help to cure a doctor shortage in the province, but it won’t come without some shorter-term challenges, a standing committee on health and social development heard Wednesday.

Dr. Michael Gardam, CEO of Health PEI, said staffing the medical school is at the forefront of those challenges.

“Right now we’re asking all of our doctors to do 150 per cent clinical work. So how on earth are we going to start pulling back our doctors to enable them to do teaching, without massive backfilling?”

Nobody at the committee meeting said having a medical school on PEI was necessarily a bad idea.

But during the presentation, the Opposition health critic Michele Beaton suggested the proposed medical school was seen more as a political promise than a practical health-care strategy.

“This government has put all their eggs in this basket,” she said. “It’s what they say is going to fix a lot of our concerns but we heard today that we have a long, long way to go before we could ever say that this is going to be the silver bullet that’s going to fix our health-care. system.”

The UPEI medical school was seen more as a political promise than a practical health-care strategy, according to the Official Opposition. (UPEI)

Dalhousie’s medical school continues to send graduates to PEI for final training. Health PEI said four out of five of them choose to stay.

But it said that’s nowhere near enough to fill the hundreds of health-care jobs that remain vacant in the province.

If and when Health PEI is actually able to find all the workers it needs, it would also need more money to pay them — a 13.5 per cent increase in spending, according to Gardam. That would bring PEI’s total health budget to about $1 billion a year.

If construction all goes according to plan, the first wave of students at the medical school are expected to begin their studies by fall 2024.

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