CORNER BROOK — Clarence Rice says the bed shortage at Western Memorial Regional Hospital is the result of shortsightedness and he does not see anything being done about it.
The Corner Brook man has been participating in the various public meetings regarding the plans for a new hospital that’s been put on hold as the particular services to be offered there are debated.
Rice has been in and out of hospital in the past due to heart problems. He finds himself front and centre again as his mother-in-law, Alice Hinks, was transferred from acute care at Western Memorial — where she was awaiting long-term care placement for more than a year — to the Bay St. George Long-Term Care in Stephenville Crossing to free up beds for the number of surgical and emergency patients coming into the regional hospital.
“To say there are no alternatives is what bothers me,” he said. “With a place eight years into announcement, and the target date for the hospital seems to be somewhere around 2022, what in the name of Christ are they going to do between now and 2022 with the people who are occupying the acute-care beds as long-term care patients?"
Rice said there appears to be no plan, other than more long-term care beds will be added within the new hospital. Meanwhile, there are always more added to the wait list, he said.
“I’ll be one of those pretty soon,” he said. “Where in the next eight years are people going to go?”
He wonders if it is going to become more of a problem for people scheduled for surgeries and admitted for emergencies to find a bed.
He said the long-term care facility in Corner Brook was built and filled to capacity immediately. In the meantime, the former Interfaith Home and O’Connell Centre was closed. While the Interfaith Home has been redeveloped, Rice said the O’Connell Centre remains vacant.
“If there is going to be a solution, they have to start utilizing what is available to them,” he said. “If they are going to be saving money by keeping the O’Connell Centre closed and they are going to be preventing people from getting into hospitals for surgeries, it’s time for them to spend a few dollars, furnish the place, and put people into it.”
Meanwhile, the fifth floor of the hospital is only being partially used for patients now and the sixth floor is not at all. These floors were utilized for dementia and long-term care patients prior to the opening of the long-term care centre in Corner Brook.
“The shortage is being created by indecision and inappropriate decisions,” Rice said.
He also said patients in need of long-term care are being transferred throughout the entire region.
“It seems to me like they are trying to force people to die,” he said.
Rice criticized the government decision to not include a PET scanner and radiology centre for the regional hospital. He does not agree with the estimates of about 170 people per year from the western region who would need it.
He said the expenses incurred by a person who has to travel for medical reasons are crippling.
“(Government) has something against the west coast, against the region,” he said. “They are not prepared to provide the services that they know are required, and would rather have those families incur the expense and suffering of having to go to St. John’s.”