Nfld. & Labrador

Advocate who pushed for a new Corner Brook hospital for years is thrilled by progress

Action committee spokesperson Gerald Parsons is happy to see the steelwork on the new hospital. He's been pushing for better health facilities on the west coast for almost a decade.

Action committee spokesperson Gerald Parsons is happy to see the steelwork on the new facility

Gerald Parsons stands next to the site of the new Corner Brook hospital. He's been speaking out for several years about the need for a new facility and says he's pleased to finally see the building going up. (Colleen Connors/CBC)

"I'm very happy. It's wonderful to see it moving" 

Gerald Parsons didn't mind shouting over the loud construction site of the new Corner Brook hospital, set to be complete 39 months from now.

Steelworkers were installing large metal beams Monday on the seven-storey structure that can been seen from vantage points all over Corner Brook.

Personal connection

Parsons is a member and spokesperson for the Hospital Action Committee, a citizens' group started close to 10 years ago by Israel Hann to push the provincial government for a new hospital with a radiation unit for Newfoundland's west coast.

Steelworkers install beams on the seventh storey of the new Corner Brook hospital. (Colleen Connors/CBC)

"I had a family member who had cancer. And we travelled for five weeks to St. John's, stayed in a hotel. And I said to Israel, 'This has got to stop,'" he said.

About five years ago, Parsons started speaking out about the need for a new hospital with a radiation unit at public government engagements. 

The hospital action committee started hosting rallies, with hundreds of people attending, speaking out about the need for better health facilities on the west coast.

"I don't think we would have ever gotten the radiation unit. The hospital would have come. It might have been longer before it got here," said Parsons. "But the more pressure the government had on it the more it had to act on it. The radiation unit never would have come here if it wasn't for the rallies that we had here and the pressures put on the government."

A year ago, then premier Dwight Ball stood at the hospital construction site and repeated his commitment to build a radiation therapy clinic in the new hospital. 

The steelwork is almost complete on the seven-storey hospital in Corner Brook. The provincial government promised it will open in 2023. (Colleen Connors/CBC)

The health facility will be seven storeys over 600,000 square feet with an estimated cost of about $750 million, with a promised completion by 2023.  

The provincial government first promised a new hospital in 2007 but this time Parsons says he believes it will happen on time.

Kept fighting

"We knew in 2007 we were a have province and we should have had it then. For some reason, the money got spent [elsewhere]. Our chair kept fighting to try and get some money put in there but it never seemed like it was moving. And then finally the new government announced we were going to do it with the three Ps [public-private partnership]. A lot of people don't like it, but we would have never got it without it."

The provincial government announced in June 2019 the 164-bed facility would be a public-private partnership.

Although Parsons is confident the new hospital will have a radiation therapy unit, he says the next step for his lobbying group is to meet with Andrew Furey, the province's new premier.

"I think we are going to have to have a meeting with the new leader once he gets his feet on the ground and sit down and find out what his understanding is of what he's supposed to do for us," he said.

"The west coast can not be forgotten about no more."

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