Speak out or die
People need to be more vocal about state of health care
Elma Drover charges government cutbacks, understaffed hospitals and the closure of medical services such as diagnostic units, ICU (intensive care units) and hospital beds are causing people to die.
And Drover, a resident of Sunnyside, feels Newfoundlanders and Labradorians need to be more vocal about the state of their health care system.
“There’s not enough nurses and doctors in the hospitals to treat the sick,” she feels. “On top of that services are being cut. Everyone knows the health care system is in a crisis. There are thousands of horror stories out there, but no one seems to be doing anything about it. We all need to stop complaining and start speaking out about it.”
Drover, who is currently staying with her daughter Amanda Holmes and her husband Chris in Shearstown, wants people to start standing up to government.
“The results of the hormone receptor test and the recent cuts to services in parts of the province such as Flowers Cove and Lewisporte are impacting the lives of thousands of people,” she claims. “Government wants to cut corners and save money and people are dying because of it.”
A few weeks ago Drover thought her brother Donald Upshall of Little Harbour, Placentia Bay was going to be among them.
On Sunday, Sept 20. Upshall, 69, was rushed to Clarenville Hospital for respite distress.
“He has had trouble breathing for many years,” explains Drover. “He had his right lung removed years ago and only around three quarters of his left lung still functions.”
By the time Drover arrived at Clarenville hospital her brother had a tube put down his throat and was connected to a breathing machine.
“He was in an awful state,” reflects Drover. The doctor on call that night in Emergency told myself and Don’s wife (Dorcas) Don was so out of it, he didn’t even know they were inserting the tube. He didn’t have a clue what was going on.”
Drover assumed her brother would be moved to the Intensive Care Unit at the hospital. However when she asked the Doctor, he told her the unit was closed.
“I couldn’t believe what I was hearing,” she said. “ My legs felt like rubber and I actually got weak. He told me there weren’t enough Internal Medical Doctors at the hospital to keep the ICU open. I just couldn’t believe it. Here was my brother, deathly ill, struggling for every breath he took, and he couldn’t get the care he needed at the ICU because it was closed. It was just insane.”
The doctor immediately called the Health Science Centre in St. John’s to see if Upshall could be transported in there — however there were no beds available.
“I was shocked,” said Drover. “Both myself and Dorcas were beside ourselves. It was bad enough that Don was so sick, but you would think that once he got to a hospital proper treatment and a bed would be available for him. That’s the least you would expect isn’t it? And he couldn’t just stay there in the Emergency room, he needed intensive treatment, but the ICU was closed at Clarenville and there were no beds available in town. What a predicament we were in!”
Despite the lack of resources, Drover says the staff at Clarenville Hospital were exceptional.
“They were very concerned and did their best to care for him. He couldn’t have gotten better care anywhere else,” she says.
The doctor at Clarenville Hospital then called Car--
bonear General and was told a bed was available, however because Upshall was so weak, transporting him by ambulance that night was out of the question. He remained in the emergency department at Clarenville and left for Carbonear the following morning.
“One of the doctors went with him and he (Upshall) had to be shocked on the way in to keep his heart going,” says Drover. “His condition was very serious.”
Drover left to drive to Carbonear a few hours later.
“When I arrived Don was hooked up to a breathing machine (ventilator). His chest was full of infection and he wasn’t breathing on his own at all, the machine was doing it for him,” she says.
While Don’s health has improved over the past few weeks, he still isn’t out of the woods. Meanwhile his sister is still upset over the cuts to the health care system. When Drover heard Health Minister Paul Oram say on Sept. 21 that health boards across the province must find ways to cut costs and not run deficits this year, she was infuriated.
“Cutting costs in health care means cutting services, Don is a prime example of that!” she says. “Look I would love for Danny Williams or Paul Oram to come out here to Carbonear and see my brother and then walk a day or two in the shoes of some of the doctors and nurses who are in this hospital and other hospitals across the province. I would love for Mr. Williams and Mr Oram to do that. They wouldn’t be long finding out what it’s like to be run off their feet like these doctors and nurses are because there aren’t enough of them to treat the number of sick people in the hospitals. And it wouldn’t take long before they would be feeling as frustrated and demeaned as some of theses doctors and nurses. They wouldn’t be looking at ways to save money after that!”
Drover says the people on the front lines of the hospitals are the whipping posts for both the government and the public.
“When there’s a long wait in the emergency department or for a test of some sort, many blame the doctor on call, or the nurses or people working in that area.And some people don’t just complain, they’re downright abusive. What they don’t realize is that these people are doing the best they can, but there just isn’t enough of them to go around,” says Drover.
“Paul Oram and the Tory government say health boards must cut costs, but services aren’t going to be affected. What a lot of bull that is. I mean come on, you know services are going to be affected and eliminated too. You don’t have to be a genius to figure that one out.”
Drover says she has a few questions she wants the premier and the health minister to answer.
“If this was their loved one how would they feel? Would they want them to be stuck in some emergency room without access to an ICU and proper care?” asks Drover. “And what about the ambulance bill from Clarenville to Carbonear, does Don have to pay for that? Will he have to cover the cost of being transported from one hospital to another because the ICU was closed? That hardly seems fair. If we had known the ICU at Clarenville Hospital was closed we would have gotten an ambulance to take him to St. John’s in the beginning. That would have saved a lot of people a lot of trouble.”
Drover says she went to the media with her story because she doesn’t want what happened to her brother to happen to anyone else. She feels the health care system is in a crisis situation.
“Health care in this province is at the bottom of the barrel. Why is that I’d like to know? What happened to Don is just one example of someone who has suffered unnecessarily because of the lack of funding and supports to our hospitals,” she says.
Drover would like to see a committee set up in each hospital across the province to identify the issues and deficits.
“There needs to be something more than just a board of trustees in place,” she says. “As far as I am concerned many of those people are appointed by government so they are bias. An independent committee is needed. A committee that would listen to the con- cerns of patients, identify shortfalls and make recommendations for changes to government would be best.”
While Drover has lost trust in the provincial government, thanks to the people of Conception Bay North, her faith in mankind has been renewed.
“The people in Carbonear, Bay Roberts and surrounding areas have been so good to us,” she says quietly. “Since I went public with Don’s story numerous people have offered us a place to stay and others have given us money to help with the cost of travelling back and forth. It’s unreal! I can’t explain how touched we are by this generosity. This is the first time we have experienced something like this and knowing there are still people in the world who care about others like this is heartwarming to say the least.”
Power in numbers
Over the past few weeks many people have contacted Drover with their own stories. She hopes they will join her cause to improve health care services in the province.
“There’s power in numbers and people across this province need to be speaking out more, going to the media and sharing their horror stories, because God knows, there are plenty of them. One or two people can’t change this situation on their own. There’s no way I can do it alone. People need to start speaking up more, they need to call their MHAs and not be afraid to criticize government for what’s happening in our hospitals. We have to make sure government gets the message this is not about the almighty dollar, this is about people’s lives! If Danny Williams and his government could only see my brother now in the hospital at Carbonear, still fighting for his life, perhaps they wouldn’t be so quick to tell boards to cut costs because what that really means is cutting services! If they never had a bed in Carbonear hospital where would my brother be today? I don’t even want to think about the answer to that question.”
HEALTH CARE CONCERNS - Elma Drover wants people from across the province to protest cuts to the health care system. A few weeks ago Drover’s brother Donald Upshall from Little Harbour, Placentia Bay had to be transported to the Carbonear General Hospital because the ICU at Clarenville Hospital was closed and no beds were available at the Health Science Centre in St. John’s.