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.”

Denise Pike/The Com­pass

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.

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