Fogo cancer patients want private area on ferry during long commutes for treatment

Harry Waterman thinks there's a simple fix for his troubles, and it's something other members of Fogo Island's aging population are also clamouring for.

Islanders must travel by ferry to Gander for regular treatments

Some people living with cancer on Fogo Island want a dedicated room on the ferry to rest in. (Rob Antle/CBC)

Every two weeks, Harry Waterman embarks on a journey he's started to dread.

He leaves his home on Fogo Island and boards the ferry en route to Gander for his bi-weekly cancer treatment.

Before a recent change, he used to stay below deck in his vehicle and put his seat back and stretch out for the length of the ride.

But now, all ferry passengers must exit their cars and go upstairs to the main passenger lounge.

It turns out that's a pretty brutal experience for someone in treatment.

"It's not very comfortable," said Waterman in an interview Tuesday with CBC Radio's On The Go.

"I'm half sea-sick and pretty miserable."

Some commuters say sitting in the ferry's cramped seats doesn't give them enough room to rest. (CBC)

He thinks there's a simple fix for his troubles, and it's something other members of Fogo Island's aging population are also clamouring for.

"We're trying to get a room with a bed or a couch, somewhere we can relax and lay back and have a bit of calm," Waterman said.

Transportation dragging heels, says advocate

In a statement, the Department of Transportation and Works said it is working on it.

"In many cases, crews on the MV Legionnaire and MV Veteran have assisted passengers through the use of a private, unoccupied crew lounge where they can expect a high level of comfort and privacy for the duration of their trip," read the statement.

"The department is investigating options to create a full-time private area for passengers that require privacy for medical reasons."

Eugene Nippard says there are many elderly people on Fogo Island who would benefit from a rest room.

But Eugene Nippard, the Citizens' Representative on the Fogo Island Transportation Committee, says he believes passengers dealing with cancer or travelling for diabetes dialysis are getting the runaround.

"They have to go up in the main lobby where everyone else is, they're really vulnerable, and they could catch any disease and their system wouldn't be strong enough to fight it off."

​Nippard said there's even a local man who has promised to help.

"We've got a businessman on the island who's willing to donate the furniture for that room, but we can't get the government to move on it to get it done."

"They just drag their heels on everything. Everything is a battle," he said.

With files from On The Go