‘The uncertainty is very stressful’: Health care access in Summerside a major concern for some

As a breast cancer survivor, Carrie Cause takes her health very seriously.

It’s why she booked an appointment with her family physician — Dr. Syed Naqvi — to check out some spots on her skin she’s worried about.

However, Cause got a text this week saying her appointment was cancelled, and Dr. Naqvi’s clinic has been closed all month.

The sign on his door says he’s off until further notice. No other details have been provided.

“The uncertainty is very stressful. Is this a long-term situation? Is this a short-term situation?” Cause said. “What should we do? You know, I was going to see the doctor because I did have some concerns. Who now do I take those concerns to?”

Theexterior ofDr.  Syed Naqvi's office.
A note on the door of dr. Syed Naqvi’s office says his clinic is closed until further notice. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

Officials with Health PEI said that it’s not in a position to say why Dr. Naqvi’s clinic is closed, or when it may re-open.

That’s because Naqvi is a fee-for-service doctor, not a paid employee of Health PEI

Naqvi has about 3,000 patients. He also runs Summerside’s only walk-in clinic, which is shut down now as well.

The clinic in nearby Wellington has been closed for months due to staffing issues.

“The message I was given was that I could go to the emergency, or a walk-in clinic in Charlottetown,” Cause said.

“Well, I live an hour away from Charlottetown. So that’s not always the most convenient. And I just don’t think going to the emergency is a really viable alternative, given our emergency seems to be very overwhelmed at the current time.”

Carrie Cause sitting in her living room.
“Since finding this out I have found myself very anxious and I know I am not the only one,” says Cause. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

A few days ago, patients waiting at the Summerside ER were given a clear sign of that.

Staff at the PCH handed out copies of a letter stating the department was so backed up that 90 per cent of the ER beds were taken up by patients waiting on a bed elsewhere in the hospital.

People needing care were told to consider other options if they had them, such as a family doctor, walk-in clinic or pharmacy.

There were over 29,500 Islanders on a waiting list for a doctor as of April 17, 2023 according to the province’s website.

ER doctor Steven McNeill wrote the letter.

“Like every square inch of space that we can find to put a patient we were using,” Dr. MacNeill said.

“It wasn’t about telling people to go away or not come to the ER, it’s meant to help explain why when they do go to the ER, there may be long waits. Just try to update people so they don’t get more and more frustrated.”

A letter stating ER beds at the PCH are 90 per cent full.
The letter was distributed previously when 85 per cent of the beds were taken up, but that number was scratched out and updated. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

In the legislature on Friday, PEI’s Health Minister Mark McLane, called the situation unfortunate, though he offered no immediate fixes.

For Cause it’s hard not to worry right now about her own health, and the state of health care in the province.

“Since finding this out I have found myself very anxious — and I know I am not the only one,” Cause said.

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