Premier Andrew Furey was standing at a podium in Bonavista, announcing a health-care recruitment campaign, when he was confronted by a frustrated town resident.
The woman was upset about a looming diversion at the Bonavista Peninsula Health Centre, meaning people needing emergency services would be sent to Clarenville.
Furey wouldn’t comment, but a news release from Eastern Health says the health centre will be temporarily closed from Saturday to Monday.
While the premier was at the podium, Central health also announced diversions would also be taking place at Green Bay Health Centre in Springdale and the Baie Verte Peninsula Health Centre in Baie Verte this weekend.
The moves are the latest in series of closures and diversions in health centres across Newfoundland, as the province struggles with a strained and understaffed health-care system.
Furey was in Bonavista to launch the Extraordinary Every Day campaign, which government hopes will convince more doctors and nurses to come and practice in the region.
Furey highlighted Bonavista’s scenery, while promoting the town as an ideal place to raise a family.
“We need to celebrate that. Because I can tell you other jurisdictions don’t have that,” he told residents at a press conference Friday. “We have the full package, we just have to make sure we’re telling that story to nurses and doctors, allied health professionals.”
It was a deliberate choice to announce the campaign in Bonavista, he said, as the area faces daily uncertainty around whether or not the emergency room at Bonavista General Hospital will open. He reassured the crowd that rumours of the emergency room permanently closing are false.
‘There’s nothing further from the truth. We want to continue to invest in this hospital in a sustainable way. To provide emergency services and family practice and acute bed care services to the people of Bonavista, he said.
The event was closed by a speech from Health Minister Tom Osborne. Immediately following his final remarks, the government’s live stream of the conference was cut off as the floor opened to questions.
Both the premier and the health minister spent about an hour and a half answering questions from residents after the news conference ended.
‘Too little, too late’
Bonavista Mayor John Norman told CBC News following the conference that he and the town council were invited to attend — but he declined, saying the government’s plan lacked substance.
“I think I speak for our municipal council, our community and the region that we really don’t think very much of it,” Norman said of the Premier’s announcement. “It was a reiteration of information we had already had… So this would be the third, if not fourth time, we would have heard about this. What the premier is calling band-aid solution.”
Norman said the decision to not attend was also fuelled by a lack of communication from government.
He said the town has been working to set up a meeting with the province to address health-care concerns for at least six months, but has gotten silence from officials at the Department of Health.
“To this day, we have received no reply. Not even a ‘thank you for your email,” Norman said. “For many of us on the ground, too little too late is our major issue.”
“We’ve reached a point where our ER has a sign outside that gives the appearance of an A&W Drive-Thru,” he said. “You drive through the main entrance and there is an open or closed sign saying ‘Today the ER is…’ and you remove the word open for closed depending on the day of the week as it were just a drive-thru service.”