Will 2026 be the finishing date of new hospital?

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Dear Editor: The new regional hospital has been an election promise for about a decade with politicians being elected on the coattails of these promises.

The original plans were scrapped in favour of new and improved plans, at lower cost, but without badly needed radiation unit for cancer treatment, PET scanner, basic cardiac unit to do angiograms (dye test) and angioplasties (stents to open heart blockages).

The new and improved includes proposed “mobile” ultrasound machines, not an ultrasound lab unit now present in our hospitals.

Earlier this year, Minister Susan Sullivan described this new and improved plan as a “flagship” for a more improved, efficient hospital, to meet the needs of all the west coast, Northern Peninsula and Labrador Strait. The flagship hospital is a flag ship sunken in place even before leaving port. Sullivan comments that she is not saying no to a radiation unit, just not right now. That is double talk. She says she recognizes the biggest issue for cancer patients on the west coast is having to travel to St. John’s for radiation treatment. She says she absolutely understands the pressures and challenges that travel creates for people, but justifies it by saying the numbers of patients travelling for treatments are low.

Regarding numbers, there are many patients needing radiation treatment who cannot afford to travel to St. John’s. They are mainly low income people and pensioners.

Practically every week there are fundraisers initiated by family and friends of the sick to help defray the costs associated with travel and accommodations.  

The provincial government has some cost assistance available but it’s not enough. Residents without education, computer experience and family help may not be aware of this assistance.

Those who can afford it sometimes travel to mainland Canada because of long waiting lists and need for immediate care here on the island, not only for cancer treatments but also for cardiac, pulmonary and other life threatening crises. In the article entitled “Functional plan for city’s new hospital nearing completion,” Sullivan says she is hoping to see construction of the new hospital start in the fall of 2015. Coincidence? That is also provincial election year. She expects the functional plan for the facility to be completed within the next few weeks. Dr. Cathi Bradbury, associate deputy minister of Health and Community Services, states that the functional plan’s focus is to decide on the volume of services needed and the numbers of rooms, etc. Minister Sullivan adds that the plan “includes looking at the demographics of the area and projecting it out to at least 2026.”

Based on my experience of political promises, this most likely means that 2026 is the finishing date of new hospital.   

Sullivan says, “The patient is at the centre of all the work that we do, but it’s basically intended to improve patient flows.”

Dr. Bradbury states that another efficiency measure would involve bringing services like blood work and ultrasounds to the patient.  Isn’t blood work service already being carried out at the patient’s bedside? I understand mobile ultrasounds don’t work properly without the proper lighting, which it would have in the main ultrasound laboratory unit. Without proper lighting, this would be similar to looking at a television screen with the sun shining on it. Bradbury says she knows the department will be increasing the footprint and more “sneaker time” for staff and the scenario of a “larger footprint” is critical for patient care.

To a staff already overstressed, run off their feet (sneakers) with 12-hour shifts, plus being on call, this doesn’t sound too comforting for them or the vulnerable patients.

My interpretation of this plan for improving patient care flows is get them in and out quicker with a large sneaker footprint on patients’ derrières.

Michael Hackett, Port au Port

Organizations: Dear Editor, Health and Community Services

Geographic location: Northern Peninsula, Canada, Port au Port

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