Gardam apologizes for ICU remarks, says Summerside hospital staff 'rightly upset'

The Prince County Hospital in Summerside is downgrading its ICU to a progressive care unit due to a lack of staffing. (Steve Bruce/CBC - image credit)
The Prince County Hospital in Summerside is downgrading its ICU to a progressive care unit due to a lack of staffing. (Steve Bruce/CBC - image credit)

Health P.E.I.'s CEO is apologizing to staff at Prince County Hospital for comments he made this week about the level of care the intensive care unit has provided in the past.

On Monday, Dr. Michael Gardam announced the ICU at the Summerside hospital would be transitioning to a progressive care unit, and that patients requiring intensive care would be treated at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Charlottetown.

At that time, Gardam said that the PCH is "not set up to be a really big sick patient ICU."

"It never has been," he said. "We've always transferred patients to QEH. So this is just a little bit more of the same."

Turns out, that's not true.

In the past, the hospital has only transferred ICU patients to Charlottetown for more specialized care, on average, less than once per month.

On Wednesday, Gardam sent a memo to staff apologizing for his comments, and acknowledging he was mistaken.

"The last thing I want is to mischaracterize your work or imply a lack of skills. I apologize for this," he said in the note, which was distributed on social media.


Gardam elaborated in an interview Wednesday with CBC News: Compass host Louise Martin.

"So what I found out when we went back and looked at our data is in fact, yes we do transfer patients. But it's not because they're necessarily the sickest patients. Far more often, it's because we don't have enough beds at PCH, for example.

"So people at PCH were rightly upset that it could be inferred that I didn't think they could care for sick patients, which was obviously not my intent."

Some ICU nurses have also taken to social media to suggest Health P.E.I.'s estimates on how many patients in need of intensive care will now have to be transferred to QEH are too low.

Health P.E.I. said on average, it should just be one or two each week. But there will be weeks when more than one or two patients have to be transferred to QEH.

6 patients transferred this week

In fact, since Sunday when PCH stopped providing intensive care, there's been six patients transferred.

On Wednesday, Gardam stood by Health P.E.I.'s estimates, which were calculated looking at the total number of ICU patients over the last 15 months, and how many of them required some amount of actual intensive care.

He said nurses have the same data.

"They're interpreting the data from their lens, which is clearly, they're very unhappy with what's going on. But there has to be some objectivity in all of this to say, 'What can we do with the resources we have to keep the ICUs running?' I'm going to keep saying it: What is the alternative to what we are doing? I'd love to hear it."

Nurses have expressed frustration over how the transition will affect their workload and time off.

Gardam said staffing plans are in the works to ensure the Charlottetown ICU can handle the increased demand.