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West Coast Healthcare Action Committee

From left: Dave Kane, Michelle White-Smith, Laura Aylward, Joyce Squire, June Smith, Joe Hearn, Mary O’Quinn, Rosie Keats, Marina Cormier. – © Jaymie L. White

By JAYMIE L. WHITE Special to the Appalachian

BAY ST. GEORGE – The West Coast Health Care Action Committee was formed in March 2004 when a small group of concerned residents and hospital staff got together and decided that it was time to make a change. Chair and spokesperson Laura Aylward said the group decided they wanted to hold a rally to protest decisions the government was planning toward services in the region.

“We held our first forum at the Stephenville Dome on Mar. 19, 2004 regarding proposed cuts to services at Sir Thomas Roddick Hospital in Stephenville,” said Aylward. “The community responded with hundreds of people attending. Local MHAs, as well as senior representatives from Western Health, were also in attendance.”

The rally was an important in presenting a better understanding of what the committee stands for, and what their goals are.

“Our message to the people attending was ‘no downgrading and cuts to services at Sir Thomas Roddick Hospital,’” said Aylward. “The mission statement of the committee is ‘to advocate and ensure access to quality health care for all of our people.’”

The committee consists of 11 members: Laura Aylward, Joe Hearn, Dave Kane, June Smith, Mary O’Quinn, Marina Cormier, Joyce Squire, Rosie Keats, Michelle White-Smith, George Lee, and Michael Hackett, who meet on a regular basis to discuss health care issues affecting the west coast. They are continuously looking for new members. It always helps to have fresh voices and ideas.

“Our committee continues to meet on a regular basis. We also meet with the senior officials of Western Health once a year and sometimes more often if needed,” said Aylward. “Since our committee was formed, we have had some successes with the sharing of services between Western Memorial Regional Hospital and Sir Thomas Roddick Hospital, and we have visiting specialists that come to our hospital on a weekly basis to see patients and perform surgeries.”

Their most recent meeting took place on Saturday Oct. 16, and among their concerns included the recommendation made by the Health Accord Committee that there should only be three regional hospitals in the province – Eastern, Central, and Western. Aylward said they completely disagree with this suggestion, and it is the hope of the committee that Premier Andrew Furey and Minister John Haggie will say no to the recommendations.

“This cannot happen,” said Aylward. “The area served by Sir Thomas Roddick Hospital covers Bay St. George, Port au Port and Bay St. George South. That’s approximately 25,000 people. The hospital provides services such as

mammography, CT scans and other services to the people in the Port aux Basques region. It is also the pain management centre for the region.”

Aylward said the group also disagrees with Haggie’s recent declaration that there is not a ‘crisis’ in healthcare for the province, and that the pandemic cannot take the full blame for the issues facing the health care system today.

“The fact is that about 98,000 people in the province do not have a family doctor,” said Aylward. “In our opinion, this crisis cannot be blamed on COVID-19 only, as there was a serious doctor shortage prior to that.”

Another matter discussed during the meeting was the condition and accessibility of the Bay St. George Medical Clinic. The building was renovated on the outside, but the stairs are still dangerous and the inside has numerous issues that still need to be resolved.

“That building is not fit for those doctors,” said Aylward. “They don’t even have a sink in their exam room. If they want to examine somebody, they have to go to the bathroom to wash their hands. There are no proper exam rooms, no rails for people to hold onto when walking down the hallway, and there are so many other problems.”

The next meeting will take place in Nov. where the committee hopes to see new members step forward and continue discussions on what they can do to come up with realistic solutions for residents around the entire region.

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