Canada's association of psychiatrists says P.E.I. should have more full-time positions for psychiatrists, based on the province's population. 

The Canadian Psychiatric Association said P.E.I. should have 17 psychiatrists, however Health PEI currently only has 15 full-time positions — five of which are vacant. 

"The lack of psychiatrists per population infringes on the service provisions, the accessibility of the services and the time in which the service needs are met," said Canadian Psychiatric Association president Dr. Renuka Prasad, who is based in Saskatchewan.

The association recommends about one psychiatrist per 8,400 people. Prasad said he believes it's imperative to maintain the minimum number psychiatrists per population.

P.E.I. down to 10 psychiatrists

An emailed statement from Health PEI said its immediate priority is on recruiting to fill the existing vacancies before determining what, if any, increase is needed to the provincial complement of psychiatrist positions

As of this week the Island is down to 10 psychiatrists. Dr. Abayomi Otusajo, who was recruited to P.E.I. in 2013, is the latest to resign.

Health PEI said he is moving to New Brunswick to be closer to family and to pursue a professional opportunity.

Care of his patients will be transferred to other psychiatrists working at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital to ensure uninterrupted treatment, said health officials. 

Mental health at the forefront

"The heart sinks for the people of P.E.I. because that's such a low number. Certainly it's bound to impinge the psychiatric services availability," said Prasad. 

"As we move forward with building a mental health and addictions service for the future, we will thoughtfully consider the role of psychiatry and resource requirements as programs and services are enhanced or introduced," said the email from Health PEI. 

Health PEI also said if it did want to increase the number of psychiatrists the request would have to reviewed by a provincial committee before a recommendation could be made to the Minister of Health and Wellness. 

Mental health has been a hot-button issue on P.E.I. recently.

This past Sunday there was a rally in Charlottetown which called for the provincial government to increase funding for mental health services and improve access to services on behalf of the #HowManyWade campaign.

'Vicious cycle'

Last month, P.E.I.'s chief of mental health and addictions, Dr. Heather Keizer acknowledged the mental health system is in a difficult placewith more people seeking mental health help.

She also said a number of psychiatrists have recently abruptly left P.E.I. and other doctors were stepping up to cover schedules — including herself.

Prasad said the low numbers will also affect the remaining health care providers — and lead to a "vicious cycle."

"They will be stressed out as well and that also leads to people leaving because the work, the increased stress work load it's increased stress as well and the lack of support all leads into the work dissatisfaction as well," said Prasad. 

New doctor coming to P.E.I.

Health PEI said the number of psychiatrists will be back up to 11 in August when another doctor, Mahesh Nachnani, starts full-time. 

Recruitment to fill Dr. Otusajo's position is already underway and the province is also recruiting for locum positions to fill vacancies on a contract basis while it recruits for permanent positions, said Health PEI. 

Dr. Otusajo represents P.E.I. as the director for The Canadian Psychiatric Association, which is a voluntary organization, and is the head of the P.E.I. Psychiatric Association. 

Prasad said he hopes another doctor will step forward to replace Dr. Otusajo as the director for P.E.I. with the Canadian Psychiatric Association. 

Author: Krystalle Ramlakhan

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