The health crisis on PEI demands real and immediate action. The past two Premiers have made grand promises to fix the Island's health system. Sadly, when it came to actual action to improve services, they have failed Islanders time and time again.
These new organizational changes announced yesterday are interesting. They have the potential to be good improvements to a broken system. I am cautiously optimistic and hopeful. The first words I am hearing from the new Chief Operating Officer, Dr. Gardam, are promising. It seems he understands there are deeply rooted issues that are negatively affecting our healthcare on PEI.
Yet, I am also skeptical. While the changes are promising, many Islanders are wondering if this is just a government rearranging the deck chairs on a sinking ship. Advocates, and those who have seen similar changes to our healthcare system over the years, are skeptical this will make any real improvements on the frontline.
In fact, changes this large prove what advocates have been telling us for years. Our system is broken, and in many ways, the system is worse now than it was when Premier King took office.
One bright spot is that this move appears to be led by the Health PEI board, and that this board seems to be following the advice of experts and making evidence-based decisions. This is something the Official Opposition has been calling for. We have seen from the actions of this Health Minister, and previous Ministers, that politics should never interfere with health decisions made by the experts
In fact, the Health PEI board is far better positioned to consistently make evidence-based, non-political decisions. Given the Board Chair, Mr. Derek Key, has expressed such support for these organizational changes is encouraging.
We know good things can happen when politicians take issues seriously, relying on the experts, listening to the research, and funding the necessary resources. Just look at our COVID response to see what can be achieved when we listen to the experts.
For months we have heard the Minister of Health and the Premier tell Islanders that things are fine and that there was no problem or concern with healthcare on PEI. Is government finally admitting it was wrong and that things were indeed as bad as advocates and Islanders have been telling them? The Official Opposition will be closely watching the outcomes of this change. In particular, we will be looking at:
- How the removal of East and West leadership positions will impact rural areas of PEI;
- How Dr. Gardam will be supported and empowered to oversee the responsibilities assigned to him. Not only is he in charge of the day to day operations, but he is also overseeing critical areas of our healthcare that are in great crisis including Mental Health/Addictions, Seniors and Hospital services;
- What immediate, on the ground action is government taking to meet the growing crisis we are facing right now in healthcare, and in particular mental health and addictions?
I am hopeful that these changes will lead to better healthcare for Islanders, but we need to see Premier King and his Ministers acknowledge the state of the healthcare system on PEI and commit to supporting the experts who are working to fix it. Just as importantly, we need to see real action on the ground today for those in desperate need of help and care.
Trish Altass, MLA Tyne Valley-Sherbrooke
Official Opposition Critic for Health and Wellness
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