Residents feel tentative relief

Paul Hutchings
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Long-awaited health care facility set to open next week for Straits area

FLOWERS COVE  Residents are optimistic the health care facility in Flowers Cove will open next week when the Labrador Grenfell Regional Health Authority recently said it would.

Local residents in the Strait area have been waiting for the facility to open for at least a year, replacing the old one currently in service. Occupancy was set, but a barrage of issues ranging from flooring to water pressure have plagued the endeavour.

Flowers Cove resident Elizabeth Genge said she is happy with the announcement and hopes they can stick to the timetables. Genge recently had a kidney transplant and welcomes the news of a new facility in her area.

“I think it will make us all feel a lot better with a new facility here. I know I’ll feel better,” she said. “I’d like to see a dialysis unit put there but let’s get it open first.”

She stressed that the older facility was good to her, with good people, but a new one will be a lot better.

Isaac Chambers of Flowers Cove said he hasn’t had to use the hospital much but is happy for others who do.

“I was happy to hear about it. I know a lot of people need it,” he said. “They’ve been promising this for a while now.”

Labrador Grenfell Regional Health Authority CEO Tony Wakeham admitted that it took longer than his organization would have liked and sympathized with local residents. He said the timeline simply couldn’t be helped.

“At the end of the day it was important to move into a building that was ready for us,” he said. “We wanted to make sure that the systems put in place had been signed off on, that was part of our due diligence.”

Wakeham recognized local frustrations.

“They see a building going up and it looks like it’s finished but no one is moving into it, people are wondering how come it’s taking so long,” he said. “But we did sit down with the committee and we did our best to explain what was going on and to keep them informed.”

He said over the next few months issues will come up within the building that will have to be tweaked, but that, he said, is part of the process. The move will commence next week.

Anchor Point Mayor Gerry Gros said he is “cautiously optimistic,” and had a colour suggestion for the building’s exterior paint job.

“They should have painted it white, like a white elephant,” he quipped. “Yes, I’m happy about this, but I’ll be happier when we actually see the doors open.”

The relocation of staff, departments and program services will begin on Jan. 20, according to Labrador-Grenfell Health in a statement. The transition is expected to take place over several days, meaning emergency services only will be provided between Jan. 20 and Feb. 2. After that, Gros said, the new facility should be open.

Gros serves on the Strait of Belle Isle Health Committee for the Straits area. He said the new facility will serve residents from Anchor Point to Reese Harbour, which is about 2,000 people. Getting information out of the province was one of the biggest challenges.

The Anchor Point mayor said the building was owned by the Department of Transportation and Public Works, which controls all the tendering and contracting until completion. When they requested a finish time, Gros said, there was none forthcoming.

“Finally we had a meeting with Mr. Wakeham, who was trying to get it open, and I asked what year he had in mind,” said Gros. “He said this year, so we’re finally looking at it opening.”

Available services at the new health centre include emergency, ambulatory care/family medicine, public health and home care, dental, diagnostic, mental health and addictions, rehabilitation and intervention and diabetes care.

Wakeham said the new facility will have approximately 73 per cent more capacity than the old one, and residents with questions about health care services an appointments can call 456-2401.

Organizations: Labrador Grenfell Regional Health Authority, Belle Isle Health Committee for the Straits, Department of Transportation and Public Works

Geographic location: FLOWERS COVE, Anchor Point

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