Good things come in small pack­ages

Strong com­mu­nity sup­port keeps Old Per­li­can health cen­tre go­ing for 75 years

The Compass - - TRINITY SOUTH - BY BILL BOW­MAN

For a rel­a­tively small ru­ral health care fa­cil­ity, the Dr. A. A. Wilkin­son Me­mo­rial Health Cen­tre is one busy spot.

The Old Per­li­can fa­cil­ity, which serves sev­eral com­mu­ni­ties along the North Shore of Con­cep­tion Bay and South Shore of Trin­ity Bay, was a bee­hive of ac­tiv­ity on Fri­day af­ter­noon, June 24.

Ten years to the day af­ter it first opened its doors, the cen­tre held an open house to help cel­e­brate the mile­stone.

Aside from those who dropped in, am­bu­lances were ar­riv­ing at its emer­gency depart­ment en­trance and peo­ple were vis­it­ing pa­tients or com­ing in to avail of other health care ser­vices the fa­cil­ity pro­vides.

But de­spite the turnout, at no time did it ap­pear crowded, thanks to the bright and spacious hall­ways lead­ing to the rooms in­side the 15,000 square foot build­ing.

To il­lus­trate just how busy Wilkin­son Me­mo­rial is, Rhonda Lock­yer, who has served as a reg­is­tered nurse in the area for more than 25 years, pointed out: “ Dur­ing the last year alone, our fa­cil­ity has reg­is­tered al­most 30,000 peo­ple in its clinic and ER (emer­gency room).”

The lab and x-ray de­part­ments served more than 10,000 in the same pe­riod.

“Due to the num­ber of physi­cians in the sur­round­ing ar­eas re­tir­ing and not be­ing re­placed,” Lock­yer said, “I fore­see our num­bers greatly in­creas­ing in the years to come.”

Sur­vived cuts

That’s a far cry from the 1980s when the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment be­gan to phase out cot­tage hos­pi­tals around the prov­ince, and Old Per­li­can found it­self among those un­der the scalpel.

A day of mourn­ing was de­clared at the time and lo­cal res­i­dents wore black arm­bands to sym­bol­ize their grief over the threat of los­ing their beloved hos­pi­tal.

While other ar­eas of the prov­ince lost their cot­tage hos­pi­tals, Old Per­li­can man­aged to sur­vive when gov­ern­ment re­assessed its po­si­tion and de­cided to con­vert it into a fa­cil­ity for the care of adults with se­vere phys­i­cal and men­tal dis­abil­i­ties. A new unit called the De­vel­op­men­tal Max­i­miza­tion Unit ( DMU) was set up at the hos­pi­tal.

Rhonda Lock­yer at­tributes the sur­vival and suc­cess of the health cen­tre to a “ very ded­i­cated board ex­ec­u­tive.”

Lock­yer and fel­low nurse Corinne Fitzgib­bons co-chaired a com­mit­tee, which or­ga­nized cel­e­bra­tions to mark the cen­tre’s 10th an­niver­sary.

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