Hospital committee still not getting commitment on radiation unit

Cory Hurley
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Israel Hann, right, and Gerald Parsons, members of the Western Region Hospital Action Committee, talk about the new hospital in Corner Brook.

The wait for confirmation on what the new hospital in Corner Brook will entail has been a long one, the lobbying for what they believe it should has been tedious, but the time for a commitment is now.

Gerald Parsons and Israel Hann of the Western Region Hospital Action Committee said, with a Conservative leadership campaign upcoming and a provincial election looming, it is a crucial time for this project.

Parsons gets right to the point. He is putting the pressure on one man’s shoulders to get this done in a way he believes is right for the people of western Newfoundland. That man is Premier Tom Marshall.

“He is our premier, and our politician,” he said about the Conservative member representing Humber East. “If he does not make this commitment to us now, we will never get it.”

The commitment Parsons speaks of is for a radiation unit to be included in the build. He said the lobby for a PET scanner is necessary, but secondary to that.

Like Marshall, says Parsons, Liberal Opposition Leader Dwight Ball has been on the fence of this issue. He said it is time for Ball to also commit to including a radiation unit in the new hospital, for if there is a change in government.

Hann said government needs to listen to the people. He said the committee has the support of 100,000 strong in western Newfoundland — including municipal representatives and local health care professionals. Letters have been wrote to government from the far reaches of the province and beyond.

Despite their effort and the public cry for a radiation unit, government continues to be non-commital to it. In doing so, said Hann, they have been caught in providing misconstrued and erroneous statistics and information.

“Each time, we have been able to prove them wrong,” he said.

The committee is expecting to once again meet with Marshall and Ball within the next week or so. If they do not get a positive response, they are ready to ramp up their efforts.

“You have not seen anything yet,” said Hann.

When the weather improves, they are planning public demonstrations and protests. However, they hope it does not come to that point. They are looking for a commitment now.

Both Marshall and Ball have publicly stated they want the best services for the people of western Newfoundland in a new hospital. However, neither has agreed with the committee and others that a radiation unit is included.

As recent as last week, Marshall said he was still looking at the numbers and information on staffing for radiation. He met with the radiation therapy team at Eastern Health — something Parsons was critical of — last week. Friday, Marshall stated in an email that he was still gathering information needed for him to make the appropriate decision.

He was not made available for comment Monday.

Ball is also still gathering information to come to his decision on the radiation unit. He has publicly committed to a PET scanner at the new hospital.

He said the Liberal party has learned a lot in recent weeks pertaining to erroneous information passed on by provincial government members. He also said costs of installing and operating the unit must be weighed against travel costs and those who are not availing of radiation treatment.

Despite outlining a number of key points being made toward having a radiation unit in the new hospital, Ball said he is not ready to commit to it.

“It’s a new hospital, and we expect to put the best quality care in the facility that we can put there — no different than we would if we were building a school or any type of infrastructure for the people of the province,” he said. “My approach to health care is no different, but I want to make sure we can actually deliver on that and what is the right thing to do.”

Organizations: Western Region Hospital Action Committee

Geographic location: Newfoundland, Corner Brook, Humber East

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