Question Period, 12 November 2015
Full transcript available here.

Psychiatrist’s salary

Dr. Bevan-Baker: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My question is also to the minister of health and wellness.

We learned recently that a psychiatrist on Prince Edward Island received a salary of $1.13 million last year. At a time when the average salary for a psychiatrist in Canada is a small fraction of this amount and when almost every other facet of health care is crying out for more funding, can the minister please explain how one individual can possibly justify such a salary? More importantly, how does his department measure the effectiveness of this individual?

Speaker: The hon. Minister of Health and Wellness and Family and Human Services.

Mr. Currie: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

I’ve had the opportunity to be through two Master Agreements. Currently we are in negotiations right now with the Medical Society of Prince Edward Island to negotiate a third Master Agreement. I can’t speak specifically about the individual, but I do know that currently under the Master Agreement, which is a contractual arrangement, physicians in this province have the ability to work fee-for-service, they have the ability to work as salaried, and do contract work.

As the minister I’m very concerned with the current growth of medical services here in the Province of Prince Edward Island. Currently our budget is approximately $110 million. In negotiations – I can’t speak specifics, but we have expectations in how we can continue to get good value for the envelope of money that we do have and continue to provide the best access we possibly can for all Islanders who are requiring medical services here in the Province of Prince Edward Island as well as out-of-province, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: The hon. Leader of the Third Party for your first supplementary question.

Dr. Bevan-Baker: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to talk about this specific individual. Was this psychiatrist on a fee-for-service remuneration schedule, and if so, are there audit mechanisms in place within Health PEI to ensure value for taxpayers’ dollars?

Speaker: The hon. Minister of Health and Wellness and Family and Human Services.

Mr. Currie: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

Under the Medical Services Act Health PEI does have the ability – and do random audits on physicians who are under a contract or fee-for-service or salaries physicians. I will bring back specifics to the questions. I can’t speak specifically about his entire package, but as the minister, I know that back in 2007 when we came into government we were in a situation where we were struggling to attract physicians, particularly specialty physicians, to our province. As a result of the latest CIHI data we’ve seen that we are very competitive now in the region in respect to attracting and retaining physicians, particularly specialists here in the province. But would be more than glad to bring back that information in detail to the member.

Thank you.

Speaker: The hon. Leader of the Third Party for your second supplementary.

Dr. Bevan-Baker: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

At full-time, 40 hours a week, working 52 weeks of the year with no vacation, this psychiatrist would have made $543 per hour. A mid-end or a mid- to high-end MRI machine costs about the same amount as the salary of this physician and you can get cheaper models for half of that price.

Given that Islanders still have to wait several months in certain cases, or even travel to Halifax for some diagnostic testing, could the minister please explain to the House how Health PEI prioritizes resources and how it managed to set a higher priority on paying a single psychiatrist rather than purchasing new testing equipment?

Speaker: The hon. Minister of Health and Wellness and Family & Human Services.

Mr. Currie: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

I do want to allude, too, that we do have a contractual arrangement and an agreement that is negotiated between the province, the medical society, and Health PEI in respect to the pay structure and pay fees here in our province.

I said earlier that I had the opportunity to be part of two of those negotiations. We are currently right in the middle of Master Agreement discussions and negotiations. My expectation is that we continue to get the best value and continue to expand and provide the best access for every dollar that we have. We’re currently in discussions with Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland who have recently signed contracts with their physicians.

But our priority as government is to make sure that we get the best value for every health care dollar we have in the entire envelope and we’ll continue to work to that goal. I will bring that information back specifically for the member.

Thank you.

 

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