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MHA, Mayor on provincial health report


MHA Tony Wakeham (Stephenville – Port au Port). –File photo

By Jaymie L. White

Special to the Appalachian

WEST COAST — On Thursday, Feb. 17, Health Accord NL co-chairs Sister Elizabeth Davis and Dr. Pat Parfrey, released their final report to the provincial government. Among the announcement were 57 calls to action focused on improving social, economic, and environmental conditions that all have an impact on a person’s health and well-being.

The report aims to implement a course of action to provide better and faster access to health care, and to develop an integrated and sustainable health system enhanced by readily available technology. The 266-page report was the result of public and targeted consultations on how health can improve across the province and all factors that influence the health of residents in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Health Accord NL was created in Nov. 2020, and their goal was to develop a 10-year plan with short, medium, and long-term goals for the health system in the province, but the implementation plan has yet to be released.

MHA Tony Wakeham (Stephenville – Port au Port) said a lot of it involves things already known about healthcare in the province, but that it was masterfully put together in one report.

“The situation of our healthcare system, where we’ve been and where we are – we’ve been talking about it for a long time. But putting it all together in one area, you’ve got to commend the people that have done this report. It’s integrated, it’s comprehensive, and it does outline the future vision and what they call their 10-year healthcare transformation. There’s still a need to get things done today as well as transition to a new way of doing things.”

Wakeham said that unfortunately, the healthcare system has reached a point where waiting 10 years simply isn’t feasible.

“It took four years to get an agreement with the Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association. The idea that we were going to have a physician shortage looming was known for some time and yet, we now find ourselves in a position where we can’t wait 10 years. People right now in my district and in the region, many of them have no primary care provider, and their big concern today is about access and affordability. Right now they have no access to a primary care provider, or little access, and they cannot afford to go and pay a private nurse practitioner to be seen nor should they have to.”

Wakeham said the onus is on the government to step up and talk about the short-term solutions, and figure out what is going to be done while waiting for an implementation strategy to be rolled out.

“We still need solutions, yesterday and today. People need that access. Those are the critical pieces that the government can’t simply say, ‘now we’ve got a plan, we have an accord that will lead us, we will follow the plan’. There are things that need to happen immediately, and that needs to be a focus.”

Wakeham hopes that when they talk about a regional facility and a regional approach, that they are talking about what is already in place and how to better utilize it.

“In the Western Region it shouldn’t be about how many ORs are in Corner Brook Hospital and how many ORs are in Stephenville hospital. It should be about our OR capacity for the region and how we can best utilize the capacity that already exists with the infrastructure already in place, so that at the end of the day nobody should be travelling if their procedures can be done here and we have the facilities and capabilities to do them.”

Mayor Tom Rose and Stephenville Town Council have been actively involved in recruiting healthcare workers to the Sir Thomas Roddick Hospital, and was pleased with the report.

“Sometimes when you look at benchmarks like, what’s our life expectancy, what’s our number one reason for fatalities, end of life, all those factors. Newfoundland comes up short. I’ve got to give a lot of credit to Sister Elizabeth Davis, Dr. Pat Parfrey and their committee for delving into the aspects and all the determinants of what healthcare means to Newfoundland and Labrador.”

Rose said there was a mention in the report of a centralized air ambulance service, and he believes Stephenville would be an ideal location for such a service.

“From a logistics perspective, with Stephenville Hospital, Port Aux Basques Hospital, Corner Brook Hospital, Burgeo Hospital, and our whole catchment demographic area, why Stephenville would be so important is because you have that emergency hospital right next to the airport.”

Rose said Stephenville has one of the best weather records in the province, and St. John’s had some of the worst, which is a critical factor to consider for the service and being able to get the aircraft on the ground.

“When you think about it too, it would help this area, this region, and this airport. It’s about getting away from centralization and decentralizing. Not everything has to be in St. John’s.”

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