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A health system out of control


Health care issues are once again front and centre on the Burin Peninsula. Marystown Dr. George Anjilvel has written a letter to the editor this week accusing Eastern Health of treating Burin Peninsula residents as 'second class citizens' and playing 'Russian roulette' with our lives.

Health care issues are once again front and centre on the Burin Peninsula. Local residents are still rebounding from the mis-reading of imaging (X-Ray) testing, done from last November to May of this year, as well as botched provincial cancer receptor testing.
Marystown Dr. George Anjilvel has written a letter to the editor this week accusing Eastern Health of treating Burin Peninsula residents as 'second class citizens' and playing 'Russian roulette' with our lives. He referenced the fact a medial 'internist' is no longer present at the Burin Peninsula Health Care Centre and won't be until Jan. 7, 2008.
It means a patient who falls victim to a heart attack will have to be bundled aboard a ground or air ambulance and sent packing to St. John's or Carbonear for the vital care needed. That care is supposed to come very quickly, if not minutes after an attack.
In addition one surgeon will remain at the Burin hospital while the second takes a holiday break in December. And quite often, other specialists seem to be paraded off to Clarenville rather than remaining on the peninsula.
The Burin Peninsula Health Care Centre opened in 1988 as a 75-bed facility with a compliment of 13 specialized physicians. They assisted local doctors - general practitioners with hospital privileges - who also provided their services in outpatient and inpatient departments.
Today, we have approximately 36 beds in use - with medicine and surgical wards combined - because health care authorities surmised 36 beds were sufficient to accommodate the needs of residents. However, over 20 of those beds are occupied by long term patients waiting for a bed to free up in either the Blue Crest Home facilities in Grand Bank or the St. Lawrence Health Care Centre.
When the Burin regional hospital opened, a study showed 75 beds was the number needed to meet peninsula needs, in addition to the beds in Grand Bank and St. Lawrence Cottage Hospitals still operating at that time.
The Burin Peninsula population has declined, that's true. But the 25 per cent drop in residents does not justify a more than 60 per cent reduction in available hospital beds to correspond with that decline.
Eastern Health relies on the tried and true explanation of it's hard to 'recruit and retain' required medical personnel, because it's a problem not only in this province but also throughout Canada. That same reasoning is used when identifying a shortage of nurses forcing bed closures at Christmas and during summer holidays.
Yet, the Newfoundland and Labrador Nurses' Union suggests graduating nurses are not being hired for full time positions in this province, and end up moving to other locations to begin their careers.
The provincial government and regional health authorities have to get together and get their stories straight. Recently resigned Eastern Health CEO George Tilley was forced to leave because he didn't stay on top of the imaging re-read scandal and ended up relaying inaccurate information to the minister and the public.
A story in today's issue of The Southern Gazette, about a Garnish couple caught up in the X-ray (imaging) re-reading fiasco, points to a system that's been allowed to grow too large to respond to the needs of its patients/clients.
The Burin Peninsula developed a remarkable health care model in the late eighties and early nineties. It served as the basis for establishing these larger health authorities.
But, it looks like a good health care model has been swallowed up by the bureaucracy it had heaped upon it in the last decade. A return to smaller, more manageable, health care authorities could be the solution to our health care woes, which have plagued us in recent years.

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