Surgeon demands help to fix Perth-Andover hospital

People in Perth-Andover have formed a group called the Hotel-Dieu Hospital Defence Committee that will campaign the provincial government to reopen the shuttered hospital.

Perth-Andover hospital closed after major flooding

People in Perth-Andover are forming a new group that is demanding to know when their shuttered hospital will be reopened.

The hospital has been closed since a major flood damaged part of the building in late March.

Now people in the northwestern New Brunswick village have formed the Hotel-Dieu Hospital Defence Committee.

Dr. Jose Morales, a general surgeon at the hospital and a member of the group, said the organization is driven by the desire to help local residents

"Patient care may be compromised, and that's the biggest concern we all have," he said.

Health Minister Madeleine Dubé has committed to reopening the building but gave no timeline.

That's not good enough for the group in Perth-Andover.

"We are asking the government, to put more resources to put the hospital to put it back on its feet. But there's the impression that they are not putting in the resources," Morales said.

Morales, who's from El Salvador, said when there was an earthquake there in 1986, they were able to open hospitals right away in tents.

"When you see that there's a need that has to be met, you have to use the best resources you have," Morales said. "Why we cannot do it in Canada, with more resources, why can we not do it in this province?"

Patients at the Hotel-Dieu Hospital have been moved to other hospitals in the area. 

Morales said patients now have to travel 30 to 45 minutes to see a doctor.

'It's a very frustrating situation'

John Lang, the co-chair of the committee, said it's been difficult getting answers about the future of the hospital.

"You can't actually talk to anybody to find out what's going on in your own hospital.  So it's a very frustrating situation," he said.

The committee would like to send some people in to document the damage and what remedial actions are being taken, Lang said.

"What we need is we need to get in to the hospital to have a look for ourselves and see what is going on, have a guided tour, have the contractors who are there explain to us what they're doing," Lang said.

"Because with all of the secrecy, we're just naturally thinking the worst."

Lang said the situation reminds many people about when the hospital flooded in 1987 and was back up and running a month later.

At that time the hospital staff cleaned it themselves, Lang said.

Lang is calling on the provincial government to announce a clear plan for the hospital's cleanup.

"What remedial actions are being taken, and have somebody with some competence to be able to tell us which services are going to be reinstated and when," Lang said.

Lang and Morales say the hospital situation is just adding to the stress of a community that is dealing with the devastation from the flood.

Red Cross numbers

Meanwhile, the Canadian Red Cross says it has received $128,000 in donations following the record flooding in Perth-Andover March 23.

Most of the money is being used to help those facing the greatest financial hardship as a result of damage to homes, according to Dan Bedell, spokesman for the Red Cross.

Red Cross disaster officials registered 409 evacuees, including 346 people from 185 flooded homes or apartments in the village, he said in a news release.

However, registering with the Red Cross is voluntary, Bedell said, so the total number impacted could be higher and the Red Cross only deals with individuals, not businesses or damage to public infrastructure.

"Our priority is those facing the greatest financial hardship, specifically seniors and others with limited income," Bill Lawlor, director of disaster management in New Brunswick, said in the release.

"We’ve met with about a 60 households so far and hope to meet with the rest in the next week, determine which cases meet our criteria, and get on with distribution."

With donations, the Red Cross makes payments directly to vendors or provides vouchers residents can apply to specified purchases.

It will not duplicate benefits from the government's Disaster Financial Assistance program or aid from other groups, the release states.

Red Cross volunteers continue to manage a reception centre at the River Valley Civic Centre that is visited daily by residents still unable to live in flood-damaged homes.

About 40 volunteers have provided more than 1,550 volunteer hours to the flood relief effort to date.