Nfld. & Labrador

Budget cuts over after-hours X-rays put son's life at risk, says Bonavista father

Lucas Tremblett believes his life was put in danger thanks to budget cuts that forced the Bonavista Peninsula Health Centre to cut back the hours of X-ray services.

Lucas Tremblett calls government cuts to Bonavista hospital a 'slap in the face'

Lucas Tremblett survived a motorcycle accident, but says his trip for an x-ray could have cost him his life. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

Lucas Tremblett believes his life was put in danger because of budget cuts that forced the Bonavista Peninsula Health Centre to cut back the hours of X-ray services.

Tremblett was out for a ride on his motorcycle in Bonavista last Tuesday when he hit a pothole and skidded along the road. 

Lucas was riding his motorcycle near Bonavista when he hit a pothole, sending him sliding about 25 feet. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

"I came up on a rough patch of road. I swerved around one pothole and my front tire ended up going into the second one and I got thrown off the bike," said Lucas.

"The bike just kept skidding and I probably went about a good 25 feet before I stopped."

Lucas thought he was dead. So did his family.

"I was working at the plant there on night shift me and my wife," said Clifford Tremblett, Lucas's father. He was pulled aside and told that his son had been in a motorcycle accident.

"It just struck me. My legs went weak," said Clifford Tremblett, who told his wife and raced to the hospital in Bonavista. They arrived before their son.

Clifford thought his son died when he heard about the accident. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

"I just sat down on the ground and said "Well, he's dead," Clifford Tremblett told CBC News. 

X-ray services closed

Lucas was conscious when he arrived at the hospital in Bonavista, but did not arrive quickly enough for an X-ray. 

"I got to Bonavista hospital and my life at this point was assumed to be on the line and I couldn't get the treatment I needed," said Lucas, who was told he had possible pelvic fracture that could lead to internal bleeding. 

Budget cuts changed the hours of the x-ray services at the hospital in Bonavista to weekdays only, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

The only way to know for sure and to start treatment is with an X-ray. Clifford Tremblett remembers listening as his son told a nurse that he couldn't move his legs.

"She looked at me and she said, 'We can't give him that X-ray because they close at 4 o'clock.' I said 'What? Are you serious?' 'Yes,' she said. 'I'm not allowed to call nobody in. So we're going have to get him ready, and we're going have to send him to Clarenville in an ambulance.'"

Lucas and Clifford check out the pothole where the accident happened. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

Clifford Tremblett raced to Clarenville in his vehicle to be there for his son during the X-rays. Staff sent Lucas off in the ambulance with a supply of blood in case things turned dire during the transfer. Clifford Tremblett wasn't sure if his son would make it alive.

Nightmare roadtrip

Lucas made it to Clarenville without any extreme changes in his condition. He remembers entering the hospital covered in blood from his accident. 

After getting an X-ray, he was soon sent back to the Bonavista hospital. 

"The doctor came out and just said everything is fine and then I was sent on my way. That was all that happened in Clarenville," said Lucas. 

Lucas was rushed to the hospital in Clarenville for an emergency x-ray. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

But driving back to Bonavista things nearly took a turn for the worse.

"I was in the back of the ambulance obviously and I can remember them slamming on the brakes because there was a moose in the middle of the road," said Lucas, laughing in disbelief. "Without the quick thinking of the driver we could have been in a moose accident that day."

Lucas said the three-hour round trip from Bonavista to Clarenville is "just added risk for someone's life."

"It took a toll on my entire family and friends," said Lucas. "Something that could have been solved so quickly at the Bonavista hospital to alleviate all the pressure and the stress on my family and myself took hours to push ahead and also toying with my life in the run of that."

'Slap in the face' of Bonavista Peninsula

X-ray services at the Bonavista hospital are currently available from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays only. 

"As Eastern Health announced in its cost-savings initiatives in response to the 2016 provincial budget, in 'category B' sites like Bonavista, there is no call back for X-ray services," a spokesperson for Eastern Health said in a statement to CBC News. 

"However, if a cross trained Lab/X-ray technologist is called back to perform blood work, he/she will perform an X-ray if requested by the Emergency Department physician."

Lucas walks towards the pothole on that caused his motorcycle accident. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

If the technologist can't perform the X-ray, the patient is sent to the hospital in Clarenville. 

The changes are expected to save an estimated $90,000. 

Lucas says he still hasn't gotten over the emotional stress of the entire ordeal but says he's happy to be alive. 

"That decision by the government is a slap in the face of everyone in this area," said Lucas, when asked about the change in hours.

"It could come down that someone could go in with a serious condition and not make it out of it. And that wouldn't be because of the hospital staff — because the staff we have at the Bonavista hospital is an amazing staff." 

That death would not be on the hospital staff. It would be on the hands of the government."

Clifford says he's happy that his son is alive and hopes this story leads to change at the hospital.

"They're going to spend a lot more than $90,000. If they can save one life by taking an X-ray there? $90,000 is nothing. A life is worth more than $90,000," said Clifford Tremblett. "I hope the X-ray machine is open 24/7."

"You've got to go through it, to know that your son's life was on the line."

About the Author

Chris Ensing

CBC News

Chris Ensing is a Video Journalist for CBC Windsor.