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Cape St. George won’t share Stephenville medical staff retention program

After clarifying access to the hospital in Stephenville, Mayor Peter Fenwick says it is impractical for the Town of Cape St. George to help retain new staff. – @ Jaymie L. White

By JAYMIE L. WHITE Special to The Appalachian

CAPE ST. GEORGE – Mayor Peter Fenwick has some thoughts about why it would be impractical for the town to share in the cost of the incentive programs for medical professionals in the Stephenville area.

On Aug. 13, The Appalachian reported on the Town of Stephenville’s efforts to make their incentive programs for attracting and retaining doctors, nurses, and specialists more inclusive, while also asking for financial assistance from neighbouring municipalities.

Mayor Tom Rose of Stephenville stated that the town council intended to put the request to the mayors in writing.

“We plan to write the different mayors to ask for their contribution to the retention package,” said Rose. “I think it is important for them to show leadership on this file and I would be very disappointed if they didn’t jump on board and help the Town of Stephenville with this very important file.”

Fenwick said it wouldn’t make sense for the Town of Cape St. George to give money toward these programs when the residents of the town are unable to have the same access to these medical professionals as residents in closer communities.

“The problem that we’ve got is we’ve got a clinic here, and Western Health says if you live in Cape St. George you go to the clinic, you don’t go to Stephenville for a GP (general practitioner) or anything like that. You go there just for specialists,” said Fenwick. “So essentially what he (Mayor Rose) was asking for was for money to put more general practitioners in Stephenville. It doesn’t help us at all because we aren’t entitled to go and see them.”

Fenwick attempted to gain clarification on the policies in place by contacting Western Health directly. He first spoke with someone at a local clinic who directed him to their supervisor based in Port Aux Basques.

“When I called up to a higher level they said if you’re at a point where you have no confidence in your local doctor, then you can make arrangements by going through Western Health in order to be able to access another GP, but on a normal basis they’re not eligible,” said Fenwick.

Fenwick says the policy is news to him and it’s quite likely Mayor Rose isn’t aware of it either.

“I don’t think Mayor Rose understood there was a policy like that, I didn’t know there was a policy like that,” said Fenwick.

Fenwick believes that because of this policy, being a longer distance from Stephenville would mean certain municipalities would be less likely to support this program.

“It’s extremely doubtful that municipalities with a distance from Stephenville would be particularly interested in supporting more doctors for Stephenville since there are far more doctors there than there are in Cape St. George or Lourdes, or Port au Port West,” said Fenwick. “Now if you’re in Kippens I can see it, because that’s where your doctors would be; maybe even if you were as far as Stephenville Crossing. But for out here, it’s a no-go kind of thing.”

Fenwick has not yet reached out to Mayor Rose regarding his stance on not contributing to the program.

“I didn’t reach out to Mayor Rose yet. It actually took me a day or two to actually call Western Health to ask them what’s going on,” said Fenwick.

As of now, Mayor Fenwick has been contacted by the Town of Stephenville requesting financial assistance for the incentive programs.

“I haven’t received anything from them. Now that’s not to say they haven’t sent anything to the town; (just) that I haven’t received yet,” said Fenwick. “I know they said they were going to be reaching out to the other towns, but at this point I have no information that they have.”

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