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Labrador Straits citizens want better service at Forteau clinic

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Labrador-Grenfell Health

One doctor has left; concerns about staff shortages

LABRADOR STRAITS, N.L.

NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR

CANADA

A public meeting held in L’Anse au Loup on Tuesday, Sept. 25, produced 17 pages of notes detailing comments and concerns about health care services at the Labrador South Health Centre in Forteau.

Just over 100 people turned out for the meeting, hosted by the Combined Councils of Southern Labrador, to collect concerns and comments.

Those 17 pages of notes will now be organized into a more concise format for presentation to the Labrador Grenfell Health management board and its CEO Heather Brown.

That Health Centre in Forteau serves communities along the Labrador Straits and is the only clinic in the area from Red Bay to L’Anse au Clair.

Combined Councils president and L’Anse-au-Loup mayor Trent O’Brien told The Northern Pen, “We went there with a list of issues that we were fairly certain people had experienced; we went there to confirm the information that we had and get feedback on what was done in the past, if it worked better or worse, and what can be done better.”

O’Brien says the 17 pages of notes will be organized, and the concerns will be brought to the Labrador Grenfell-Health management board and its CEO Heather Brown.

Some of the main topics of discussion at the meeting included the recent loss of a doctor, staffing issues, building infrastructure and the clinic’s admitting/holding policy.

According to O’Brien and West St. Modeste mayor Agnes Pike, the Labrador South Health Centre in Forteau lost one of its two doctors over the summer.

That was one of the main concerns raised at the meeting.

“The main concern, why the meeting was called, was why did we lose our doctor and what efforts are Labrador-Grenfell are making to sustain our doctors or get another doctor in there?” Pike told The Northern Pen.

She adds there is concern they may lose the doctor they still have.

According to Pike the doctor’s family has bought a house in Corner Brook and moved from Forteau.

If he moves too, they’ll be left without a doctor on staff, she says.

O’Brien told The Northern Pen doctor retention has been an issue for a number of years.

“Our doctors seem to be coming, staying for two years, and then leaving again.”

Citizens at the meeting had some suggestions on that issue.

One was to have doctors sign longer contracts; the other was to hire a nurse practitioner.

Cartwright – L’Anse au Clair MHA Lisa Dempster also attended the meeting.

She told The Northern Pen she has had conversations with Labrador-Grenfell Health and says they’re trying to bring in locum doctors to fill the gap until the vacant position is re-filled.

She adds Labrador-Grenfell Health is actively recruiting for a second doctor.

Other issues

Mayor O’Brien says there are also concerns about staffing issues at the clinic.

The mayor says he’s scheduling changes at the clinic have resulted in having fewer people on staff at certain times.

If there’s an emergency, staff will be pulled from the long-term unit to help in emergency, he alleges.

Another issue is patient admissions.

O’Brien says the clinic can only admit or hold a patient for up to three days. He says the town councils have heard of cases where people have been forced out when they’re not well enough.

In those cases, he says, a patient would either have to go home or be flown to St. Anthony hospital.

He says he can’t see how flying the person to St. Anthony would be a cost saving over continuing to hold them in Forteau.

According to MHA Dempster, holding beds the emergency and acute care departments have only been filled two-thirds of the time.

She believes the “pressure points” are in long-term care.

She told The Northern Pen she has learned that Labrador-Grenfell Health and the Department of Health and Community Services have been having discussions centered around addressing long-term care unit needs.

She says the 14-bed unit is currently at 97 per cent capacity — and one bed is for respite/palliative care — and they need two to three more long-term care beds.

O’Brien believes they need to expand capacity in the long-term care unit but says it cannot come at the expense of holding beds in emergency and acute care.

The public also learned from Dempster during the meeting that roofing repairs are coming to the hospital.

Work on the $340,000 contract was set to begin this week.

The MHA also indicated a tender is being called upgrades to the health centre’s parking lot. A new x-ray unit is also expected to be installed at the clinic this fall.

Dempster also denied rumours that the government was looking at closing or cutting services at the clinic in Forteau for a new clinic in southeastern Labrador. She contends there is no truth to the rumours and no such plans exist.

Officials from Labrador-Grenfell Health could not be reached for comment by deadline.

The Northern Pen will provide updates to this story as they are available.

stephen.roberts@northernpen.ca

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