P.E.I. goes online to address child psychiatrist shortage – Prince Edward Island

P.E.I.’s Official Opposition raised concerns in the legislature Tuesday about a new program linking Island children electronically with psychiatrists on the mainland.

In response to questions from the Opposition, Health and Wellness Minister Robert Henderson told the House the province launched a telepsychiatry service in February.

That service is being used to address a shortage of child psychiatrists currently operating in the province. The province has two positions for child psychiatrists but only one is currently practicing. The second is on maternity leave and Health PEI has been unable to find a locum replacement.

P.E.I. Opposition health critic James Aylward raised concerns in the legislature Tuesday about a new program linking Island children electronically with psychiatrists on the mainland. (CBC)

“Delivering child psychiatry services to Island children and youth through Skype would seem to be a stop-gap effort,” said Opposition health critic James Aylward during question period.

“How did we get to the point where we’re forced to use off-Island psychiatrists to do triage by Skype?”

Not ideal, says minister

“Obviously [there are] situations [that] occur when it comes to recruiting and retaining physicians, for whatever the specialty would be,” Henderson responded.

“Although I would not say that it is the ideal situation, it is at least providing the services and needs that children require when it comes to psychiatric services in this province.”

Aylward later told reporters families had been reaching out to him to complain about audio and video problems with the service.

Diagnosis should be face-to-face, says opposition

“To be honest I think it’s deplorable,” said Alyward.

“I’ve heard from several families now that have reached out to me. Modern technology is great. But having a child psychiatrist face-to-face in the same room with a child who’s experiencing mental health issues, there’s no alternative for that.”

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