Service changes made to Prince County Hospital Critical Care during internal medicine shortage

Health PEI has implemented a plan to maintain necessary critical care services at Prince County Hospital during an ongoing internal medicine physician shortage. 

“Our health-care system is responding to the greatest staffing challenges we have seen as a province and as a county. While our intention is to increase services available at PCH over the long term, we need to make these changes now to maintain safe care for Islanders in the face of shortages in physicians, nurses and many other health-care professions,” said Dr. Michael Gardam, CEO. 

During the internal medicine shortage, PCH critical care services has transitioned to be a Progressive Care Unit (PCU), which cares for patients who are very ill but not at the intensive care level. Intensive care requires internal medicine staff around the clock. The PCU can be staffed safely by trained family physicians, hospitalists and nursing staff. 

PCU level of care is the level required for the vast majority of patients who historically received critical care services at PCH.

The changes will allow the hospital to increase the beds on this unit from six to eight, as fewer nurses will be required for the level of care offered. 

Patients who need more intense care will be stabilized and safely transferred to the QEH. Additional beds will staffed to accommodate these patients as required. We will be assessing the capacity at QEH on a daily basis and will increase beds as necessary. Emergency patients will continue to be seen and assessed at PCH. 

Whenever possible, internal medicine locums will be brought to PCH to provide 24/7 Internal Medicine support on call.

The new PCU service will be evaluated in the weeks and months ahead. Recruitment to increase the number of internists at PCH will continue as a priority for the health system. 

The plan was developed by an integrated provincial team, which include representation from health care workers, administrators, physicians and medical leaders for PCH and QEH as well as provincial leads. They carefully reviewed staffing models and patient demographics to design a safe and viable option for a provincial response to critical care needs on PEI.

“I want to be clear that this plan is needed for Islanders right now, as our health-care teams respond to an unprecedented staffing challenge. It will be frequently revisited depending on the ability to recruit internal medicine physicians,” said Dr. Gardam.  “No one wants to be in this situation, but the system needs to adapt and change to provide the best possible care over the short term. Over the long term, the only solution is to recruit and train many more health-care workers to care for the growing Island population, so we can offer sustainable services without burning out staff.”

Dr. Gardam thanked the provincial planning team, PCH physicians, staff and leaders and QEH physicians, staff and leaders for their dedication and hard work to developing the best option possible in a difficult situation.

Media contact:
Everton McLean
Chief Communications Officer, Health PEI

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