Bet­ter clinic ser­vice needed

One doc­tor has left; Labrador Straits cit­i­zens have con­cerns about staff short­ages at Forteau cen­tre

Northern Pen - - Front Page - BY STEPHEN ROBERTS

A pub­lic meet­ing held in L’Anse au Loup on Tues­day, Sept. 25, pro­duced 17 pages of notes de­tail­ing com­ments and con­cerns about health care ser­vices at the Labrador South Health Cen­tre in Forteau.

Just over 100 peo­ple turned out for the meet­ing, hosted by the Com­bined Coun­cils of South­ern Labrador, to col­lect con­cerns and com­ments.

Those 17 pages of notes will now be or­ga­nized into a more con­cise for­mat for pre­sen­ta­tion to the Labrador Gren­fell Health man­age­ment board and its CEO Heather Brown.

That Health Cen­tre in Forteau serves com­mu­ni­ties along the Labrador Straits and is the only clinic in the area from Red Bay to L’Anse au Clair.

Com­bined Coun­cils pres­i­dent and L’Anse-au-Loup mayor Trent O’Brien told The North­ern Pen, “We went there with a list of is­sues that we were fairly cer­tain peo­ple had ex­pe­ri­enced; we went there to con­firm the in­for­ma­tion that we had and get feed­back on what was done in the past, if it worked bet­ter or worse, and what can be done bet­ter.”

O’Brien says the 17 pages of notes will be or­ga­nized, and the con­cerns will be brought to the Labrador Gren­fel­lHealth man­age­ment board and its CEO Heather Brown.

Some of the main top­ics of dis­cus­sion at the meet­ing in­cluded the re­cent loss of a doc­tor, staffing is­sues, build­ing in­fra­struc­ture and the clinic’s ad­mit­ting/hold­ing pol­icy.

Ac­cord­ing to O’Brien and West St. Modeste mayor Agnes Pike, the Labrador South Health Cen­tre in Forteau lost one of its two doc­tors over the sum­mer.

That was one of the main con­cerns raised at the meet­ing.

“The main con­cern, why the meet­ing was called, was why did we lose our doc­tor and what ef­forts are Labrador-Gren­fell are mak­ing to sus­tain our doc­tors or get an­other doc­tor in there?” Pike told The North­ern Pen.

She adds there is con­cern they may lose the doc­tor they still have.

Ac­cord­ing to Pike the doc­tor’s fam­ily has bought a house in Cor­ner Brook and moved from Forteau.

If he moves too, they’ll be left with­out a doc­tor on staff, she says.

O’Brien told The North­ern Pen doc­tor re­ten­tion has been an is­sue for a num­ber of years.

“Our doc­tors seem to be com­ing, stay­ing for two years, and then leav­ing again.”

Cit­i­zens at the meet­ing had some sug­ges­tions on that is­sue.

One was to have doc­tors sign longer con­tracts; the other was to hire a nurse prac­ti­tioner.

Cartwright – L’Anse au Clair MHA Lisa Demp­ster also at­tended the meet­ing.

She told The North­ern Pen she has had con­ver­sa­tions with Labrador-Gren­fell Health and says they’re try­ing to bring in locum doc­tors to fill the gap un­til the va­cant po­si­tion is re-filled.

She adds Labrador-Gren­fell Health is ac­tively re­cruit­ing for a sec­ond doc­tor.

“Our doc­tors seem to be com­ing, stay­ing for two years, and then leav­ing again.” — Mayor Trent O’Brien

Other is­sues

Mayor O’Brien says there are also con­cerns about staffing is­sues at the clinic.

The mayor says he’s sched­ul­ing changes at the clinic have re­sulted in hav­ing fewer peo­ple on staff at cer­tain times.

If there’s an emer­gency, staff will be pulled from the long-term unit to help in emer­gency, he al­leges.

An­other is­sue is pa­tient ad­mis­sions.

O’Brien says the clinic can only ad­mit or hold a pa­tient for up to three days. He says the town coun­cils have heard of cases where peo­ple have been forced out when they’re not well enough.

In those cases, he says, a pa­tient would ei­ther have to go home or be flown to St. An­thony hos­pi­tal.

He says he can’t see how fly­ing the per­son to St. An­thony would be a cost sav­ing over con­tin­u­ing to hold them in Forteau.

Ac­cord­ing to MHA Demp­ster, hold­ing beds the emer­gency and acute care de­part­ments have only been filled two-thirds of the time.

She be­lieves the “pres­sure points” are in long-term care.

She told The North­ern Pen she has learned that Labrador-Gren­fell Health and the Depart­ment of Health and Com­mu­nity Ser­vices have been hav­ing dis­cus­sions cen­tered around ad­dress­ing long-term care unit needs.

She says the 14-bed unit is cur­rently at 97 per cent ca­pac­ity — and one bed is for respite/pal­lia­tive care — and they need two to three more longterm care beds.

O’Brien be­lieves they need to ex­pand ca­pac­ity in the longterm care unit but says it can­not come at the ex­pense of hold­ing beds in emer­gency and acute care.

The pub­lic also learned from Demp­ster dur­ing the meet­ing that roof­ing re­pairs are com­ing to the hos­pi­tal.

Work on the $340,000 con­tract was set to be­gin this week.

The MHA also in­di­cated a ten­der is be­ing called up­grades to the health cen­tre’s park­ing lot. A new x-ray unit is also ex­pected to be in­stalled at the clinic this fall.

Demp­ster also de­nied ru­mours that the govern­ment was look­ing at clos­ing or cut­ting ser­vices at the clinic in Forteau for a new clinic in south­east­ern Labrador. She con­tends there is no truth to the ru­mours and no such plans ex­ist.

Of­fi­cials from LabradorGren­fell Health could not be reached for com­ment by dead­line.

The North­ern Pen will pro­vide up­dates to this story as they are avail­able.

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