Good things come in small packages
Strong community support keeps Old Perlican health centre going for 75 years
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.”
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.