Nfld. & Labrador

Blend of innovation and frustration heard at CBC health-care forum

There were concerns heard about everything from mental health to parking to a handful of new methods discussed aimed at efficiency.

Industry leaders discuss new ways forward for paramedics, doctors and nurses

CBC host Ramona Dearing led a panel discussion on health care on Thursday night at Memorial University. (CBC)

There are plenty of concerns and complaints about the health-care system in Newfoundland and Labrador, but there are also industry leaders lobbying to improve their areas.

CBC News heard from some of those leaders in a public forum Thursday night as part of our Critical Condition series.

We also heard from the public — many of whom have become frustrated and jaded by the system for a litany of reasons.

Here are some of the moments that stood out.

Hospital parking not kind to cancer patients

Stephanie Lushman was 31 years old when she learned she had cancer.

She moved home from Korea, where she was a teacher, and underwent chemotherapy at the Health Sciences Centre in St. John's.

Stephanie Lushman was going through chemo but couldn't get a spot near the hospital. 1:16

She has mostly good things to say about the treatment she received, except for one issue.

She could never find a parking spot near the front doors — a concern that's been raised by several other people over the years.

"Oftentimes it was my father who drove me," she said. "I couldn't walk all that way. He'd have to leave me in the car — vomiting, crying, maybe out of it — and he'd have to walk all the way to get a wheelchair and physically lift me up."

Lushman, like many other advocates over the years, wants to see hospitals designate spaces for chemotherapy patients near the front doors.

More nurse practitioners

When asked what's on her wish list for the province's health-care system, nurses' union president Debbie Forward said her top item would be more nurse practitioners.

There are about 115 in Newfoundland and Labrador right now, but Forward says there could be many more, and each of their roles could be expanded.

"Some people don't have access to family physicians right now, and complementary providers like a nurse practitioner can help fill those gaps in the system," she said.

Nurse's union president Debbie Forward speaks about the need for nurse practitioners in the province. 0:43

The Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association has been at odds with the health minister in recent months over his similar stance that nurse practitioners can fill most of the same role as a family doctor.

Susan King, a general practitioner in attendance, said there's work to be done to repair the relationship between doctors and nurse practitioners.

"The bottom line is we need to talk and co-operate together and create something that will work functionally to the best of our patients."

Broader scope for paramedics

Rodney Gaudet, president of the Paramedic Association of Newfoundland and Labrador, told the forum he wants to see his colleagues play a bigger role in the health-care system.

Part of that comes with more advanced-care paramedics, who are allowed to administer pain and heart medication when they arrive on the scene of a call.

Advanced-care paramedics are operating only in St. John's and Corner Brook at the moment, but will soon start work in central Newfoundland as well.

Rodney Gaudet speaks about new initiatives in the field of paramedicine. 0:54

Another avenue Gaudet wants to see implemented is community paramedicine — where paramedics would be involved in non-emergency situations.

That could include assessing a person's home for fall risks before they are released from hospital, or making sure a patient is taking their medications properly once they are home.

"Things that prevent them from having to come back to hospital to tie up a hospital bed [or] an emergency bed, tying up physicians and nurses and it keeps them in their homes," he said.

With files from Here & Now