Improved COPD programs help Islanders breathe easier

Brian Crabbe

Brian Crabbe remembers stopping to help push a stranded car out of a snow drift and becoming so winded he considered calling 9-1-1.

Shortness of breath is one of the symptoms of the chronic lung disease COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) that affects some 8,000 Islanders. Crabbe says expansions to the provincial government’s COPD programs are helping him breathe a little easier.

“It’s tough,” he said, “but without assistance like these programs, it would be a lot tougher.”

The four-year-old INSPIRED program was launched Island wide this past April to help patients transition from the hospital to home. It is a partnership with the Canadian Foundation for Health Care Improvement.

The provincial government is hosting four focus-group conversations across the Island from July 12 to 20 (see below) to seek input that will help Health PEI plan and implement future COPD programming and services. 

“Our health care system continues to take steps forward in helping Islanders manage chronic diseases such as COPD, and improve their quality of life,” Health and Wellness Minister Robert Mitchell said. “Hearing from Islanders about their experiences is important to help us understand how we can continue to make positive changes that best support their needs.”

So far, INSPIRED has helped reduce costly visits to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) emergency department; visits by COPD patients have dropped by 23 percent and overall have decreased by 15 percent.

Celina MacLeod, Respiratory Therapist and COPD program coordinator, says primary care clinics work with community and home care programs to help keep patients out of hospitals and emergency departments.

“Breathing trouble can be really scary for patients and their families,” she said. “It’s important they understand their own triggers and have an action plan that we review with them.”

Crabbe said becoming educated about the disease, which he developed 10 years ago at age 59, has made a world of difference. He has carried a portable oxygen tank in a backpack for two years and says he’d be lost without the tank and the health care workers who taught him how to manage his COPD. Things like learning the importance of proper medication use has kept him out of the hospital for more than two years, he said.

“It’s been improving all the time, they’ve made some really nice additions to it the last two years,” Crabbe said. “I have been able to manage the disease better because of the education I received.”

Some of that education has involved working with a dietitian to identify inflammatory foods that worsen his condition especially helped him.

MacLeod said knowing potential pitfalls and getting early treatment can keep symptoms from getting worse.

“We want to help people build confidence that they can manage their disease.”

Islanders living with COPD are invited to participate in focus group conversations and provide their input on the province’s COPD programs.

Pre-registration is requested, and sessions will be held from 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm on the following dates:

  • July 12 (Queens County)
  • July 13 (East Prince)
  • July 17 (Kings County)
  • July 20 (West Prince)

Please pre-register by calling 1-888-854-7244.

Those unable to attend the one of focus group conversations, can call the above phone number to request a survey, which that will be circulated in the near future. 

Get more information about the provincial COPD program

General Inquiries

Department of Health and Wellness
4th Floor North, Shaw Building
105 Rochford Street
Charlottetown, PE   C1A 7N8

Phone: 902-368-6414
Fax: 902-368-4121