The commitments are there in words, but the West Coast Health Care Action Committee still has questions on how it will all materialize.
Following a public meeting organized by the committee last Thursday, Premier Tom Marshall said Friday that the province would put radiation services in the new hospital in Corner Brook.
But committee co-chair Gerald Parsons wonders what Marshall’s comments mean for the plan for the regional facility. He said the last time the committee spoke with the premier he committed to building a room for a PET scanner. At the time, Marshall also said the cables and electrical needed for a radiation unit would be run to a wall with a door to allow for the addition of radiation services at some point.
“In Saturday’s paper he said the green light is given to radiation,” said Parsons on Tuesday.
“Does that mean the bunkers are going to be put in the design of the hospital and be built? It’s easy to say we’re going to do things, but if it’s not put in the design of the hospital, we’re not going to get it.”
In an interview with The Western Star on Tuesday, Marshall reiterated what he said late last week in regards to the radiation unit.
“It’s going to be there,” he said. “It makes sense to do it.”
Marshall said the draft functional plan on the new hospital has been completed and is being reviewed by Western Health.
He said neither the PET scanner or radiation unit is part of the draft plan, “But they will be.”
Marshall said the final plan is anticipated to be completed by the end of May, and it will include the PET scanner and the radiation unit.
When it comes to the radiation unit, he said the only question is if it will be one machine or two, and he’s looking for that answer.
“I need someone to tell me, some expert, some professional, to tell me what we should do,” said Marshall. “Can we do it with one? Do we have to have two? And if we have to have two what would the backup be? Is there another model that we can use where there would be a backup machine in another community a couple of hours away? Or ... if there’s a problem you could just simply airlift the people to St. John’s?”
Marshall said based projected numbers that one machine can handle the need on the west coast, but there has to be a plan to handle the possibility of that machine going down.
Unlike other areas of the country with one machine, Marshall said the distance to the next one would be seven hours, unless there was one put in Grand Falls or in central.
He said a chunk of the $500,000 allotted in the budget to study the delivery of radiation services on the west coast will go to looking at the rest of the province.
“That could lead into where backup machines will go.”
Marshall said the study is about finding the correct way to do it because, “We’re not having second rate service.”
Parsons said the action committee is also concerned with other services in the new hospital.
“We don’t want them to downgrade other services because they’re going to give us radiation and a PET scanner.”
Marshall said the master plan looked at the needs in the area, the services offered now and what will be needed in the future. With an aging population, he said some things will be needed more — like chemotherapy and dialysis — and others, like birthing services, needed less.
Parsons is hoping that before the final design of the hospital is done that the action committee will be included in the process.
In the meantime, the committee plans to write all three provincial leaders and ask what their commitment is to the radiation unit and PET scanner and the remaining part of the hospital.
Plans to rally for the best possible services will also continue.
“We’re going to push harder now,” said Parsons, adding the committee is planning to hold a barbecue at the hospital site in late June.