A leg­end steps back

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - EDITORIAL -

There are now even big­ger chal­lenges fac­ing the health­care sys­tem in West Prince fol­low­ing the of­fi­cial re­tire­ment of Dr. Herb Dick­ieson. His de­par­ture leaves three physi­cian va­can­cies in the re­gion but the issue re­ally goes well beyond that ob­vi­ous prob­lem.

Dr. Dick­ieson is among a shrink­ing breed of al­most leg­endary coun­try doc­tors who serve a huge pa­tient list, work long hours and cover off hol­i­days and week­ends. An emer­gency call in the mid­dle of the night or a knock on the porch door was usu­ally an­swered by the call of duty.

So when a doc­tor like Dr. Dick­ieson re­tires, his de­par­ture leaves a ma­jor void, be­cause it would re­ally take two or three physi­cians to ad­e­quately re­place him.

Health and Well­ness Min­is­ter Robert Hen­der­son, who rep­re­sents the O’Leary area where Dr. Dick­ieson based his prac­tice for al­most 30 years, knows very well the im­pact his re­tire­ment cre­ates. Last week’s an­nounce­ment very likely didn’t come as a great sur­prise to the min­is­ter. Health P.E.I now must pro­ceed very quickly to find a re­place­ment to en­sure that Dr. Dick­ieson’s large list of pa­tients will have timely ac­cess to health­care.

There will be a domino ef­fect in West Prince. The Western Hos­pi­tal will face ad­di­tional chal­lenges be­cause more Is­lan­ders with­out a doc­tor in the O’Leary area must travel to Al­ber­ton. The hos­pi­tal is al­ready un­der pres­sure to pro­vide emer­gency, in­pa­tient, walk-in, am­bu­la­tory and pal­lia­tive care ser­vices every day. Chal­lenges will in­crease for the O’Leary Health Cen­tre, which pro­vides an im­por­tant role in men­tal health treat­ment, clin­i­cal care, out­pa­tient ser­vices and as a drug and alcohol re­hab cen­tre.

Dr. Dick­ieson’s in­ter­ests ex­tended beyond his med­i­cal prac­tice. He rep­re­sented the area for the NDP between 1996 and 2000 and also served as pro­vin­cial party leader. He ran for the party in the 2015 fed­eral elec­tion, re­spond­ing to health­care chal­lenges pre­sented by the for­mer fed­eral gov­ern­ment. He was a fre­quent con­trib­u­tor to this news­pa­per with opin­ion ar­ti­cles or let­ters to dis­cuss threats to health­care.

Dr. Dick­ieson was quick to ex­press his thanks to his pa­tients, fam­i­lies, the West Prince com­mu­nity, col­leagues and gov­ern­ment for their help and un­der­stand­ing over the years. We would like to thank Dr. Dick­ieson for his ser­vice and ded­i­ca­tion to province and com­mu­nity.

West Prince has a physi­cian com­ple­ment of 12. With Dr. Dick­ieson’s re­tire­ment, there are three va­can­cies in the re­gion. Re­cruit­ment ef­forts were al­ready un­der­way to re­place an emer­gency room physi­cian at Western Hos­pi­tal and an­other doc­tor whose po­si­tion has been va­cant for more than six months. Their move to Summerside demon­strates the added chal­lenges of fill­ing ru­ral med­i­cal po­si­tions – to­day’s doc­tors pre­fer larger health cen­tres to share the work­load and who can blame them?

It’s doubt­ful we have heard or seen the last of the 63-year-old doc­tor. He has many years left to con­trib­ute to his province, per­haps po­lit­i­cally or maybe in some other health role.

His are big shoes to fill. It is truly the end of an era. They cer­tainly don’t make ’em like Dr. Herb any­more.

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