Patience is running out in Whitbourne as ERs remain closed for the 7th consecutive week


As Whitbourne’s emergency room remains closed for a seventh consecutive week, city leaders are calling for action from the provincial government.

With the Dr. H. Newhook Community Health Center closed, the nearest hospital for residents of the city and surrounding communities is in Carbonear, approximately 60 kilometers up the Veterans Memorial Highway in Conception Bay North. St. John’s is 90 kilometers to the east, or nearly an hour on the Trans-Canada Highway.

Whitbourne Mayor Hilda Whelan said she and the town were frustrated by the prolonged closure.

“We were exceptionally lucky that we didn’t have any fatalities due to this closure,” she said. « Because this clinic saved a lot of lives that wouldn’t have made it to Carbonear or St. John’s. »

The clinic is closed due to a staffing shortage which Whelan says needs to be addressed by the provincial government. If people received proper pay and incentives, she said, more doctors would be inclined to work and stay in Newfoundland and Labrador.

« The fact is, there are no doctors, no matter how much we protest or how much noise we make. They can’t give us what we don’t have. »

Delay in accident coverage

With the local fire department covering the highway, Whelan said, « that clinic, even with four or five doctors, was running steadily. »

Whitbourne Fire Chief Jamie Budden said he was concerned about emergency care for the area covered by the department – a 75 kilometer stretch of motorway and several communities in the surrounding area.

Fire Chief Jamie Budden said the extended ER shutdown means area residents may not get the emergency care they need. (Katie Breen/CBC)

Without an emergency room in Whitbourne, Budden said, there is a risk that people will not be able to get the emergency care they need.

« Your aim is to transfer patient care to a higher level of care as soon as possible. At present, without an emergency room in Whitbourne, that is not happening, » he said.

The department is handling many high-impact calls, and the closure means a delay in care, he said.

Calls can be traumatic for both victims and firefighters.

« We need our emergency room, » he said.

Whelan had a message for the regional health authority: « Eastern Health, do your job, » she said.

« Put the money on the table for our health care. This is the most pressing and concerning issue in this province today, » she said.

The clinic will be closed until at least the middle of next week,

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