© Geraldine Brophy
Progressive Conservative leadership hopeful Bill Barry, back, right, met with members of the Western Region Hospital Action committee Monday, March 31, 2014 at the Greenwood Inn and Suites.
Health care facilities need to be where the majority of people live.
Newfoundland and Labrador Progressive Conservative party leadership hopeful Bill Barry stressed that point repeatedly Monday night during a meeting with members of the Western Region Hospital Action Committee at the Greenwood Inn and Suites.
“That certainly means St. John’s,” said Barry. “But it certainly means Corner Brook too.
“The idea that everybody on the island of Newfoundland would have to go to St. John’s to get (cancer treatment) is preposterous.”
But Barry believes it’s time to think outside the box and make choices that would get the most out of the available money. Instead of building a new hospital for $600 million and abandoning the current building, Barry proposed a scenario where Western Memorial Regional Hospital received upgrades and expansion, while a cancer treatment facility is constructed on the site where the new hospital is supposed to be built.
“What if we said we’re going to build the best cancer treatment facility in Eastern Canada in Corner Brook?,” he asked. “What if we said we maybe don’t have to spend $600 million, maybe we spent $200 million on just the cancer centre?”
“(The current hospital) needs upgrading, but does it need to be destroyed? Does it need to be turned over to somebody else to have a benefit?,” he added. “Maybe we can have our cake and eat it too.”
According to Barry, there have been health care facilities built all over the island that never should have been constructed because they’re capital infrastructure, where it costs money to build them and costs money to keep them going.
“And they’re not good health care,” he said. “You can’t get doctors to go to them, you can’t get nurses to go to them.”
It’s just one example he cited of this province’s historic tendency to spend sloppily, a trend that he believes must stop. He said he could pick out 50 different pages of things that shouldn’t be going on in the 452-page provincial budget.
“Where do you slice off the B.S. and do the real things you’ve got to do?,” he asked. “I can read the words “grants” and “subsidy” on 50 pages that count up to hundreds of millions of dollars per year.
“I wouldn’t have a God damn one of that in there as long as we didn’t have a hospital — it’s about priorities,” he said. “What’s a priority? Health care in Corner Brook, this region ... having a cancer treatment centre. That’s a priority.”
A truly state-of-the-art cancer treatment centre could even be viewed as a business opportunity for the area, he said.
“Do you know how many people would come here to get looked after?,” he said. “The land we’ve got up there, one of the most beautiful spots in the world ... take that land and put the right facilities around it. I’m just thinking about all the things you see in other parts of the world.
“You probably wouldn’t have to spend $600 million to do that.”
He said the facility could even offer non-traditional cancer treatment options like homeopathic medicine.
“For people that would like to exercise a different option than having all of their cells fried,” he said.
Though he said the current hospital building needs improvements, in part because it’s not being taken care of anymore, the structure is sound. It would be possible, he said, to make the existing facility work, with technological upgrades and expansion of the parking lot and outpatients area, in particular.
“If someone told me we’re going to tear down Western Memorial, I’d say, ‘Not a good answer,’ because I don’t see destroying one facility to spend money on building another one.”
This approach, he said, would make more common sense than constructing an entirely new hospital with a cancer treatment facility added on in the final stages.
“Cancer is such a huge issue, you attract really talented people to a facility with some of the best gear money can buy,” he said. “If you actually build a hospital, and at the end of it you put a half-assed facility, you’ll have a half-assed doctor here.”