NAPE members, Botwood residents protest ER cutback
With a shaky voice and a literal helping hand from a friend, Janice Dawe stood at the front of crowd and shared her story about the importance of Botwood's threatened emergency room.
Last month, Dawe was coming off life-support in Grand Falls-Windsor, anxious to return to her hometown of Botwood to be closer to family.
A heart attack had nearly taken her life while she was driving with her husband near Bishop's Falls. After 10 days in the intensive care unit, she asked to be moved home to Botwood while awaiting test results; her doctor refused.
"He didn't want to discharge me," she said.
"If what happened to me back in June happens again, and it happens in Botwood at night and with emergency closed, I will die."
Dawe was one of dozens of Botwood area residents at the Hugh Twomey Centre on Thursday afternoon to protest cuts to the town's emergency room, which demonstrators said will mean additional travel time to several other communities that may endanger lives.
This is not a sense of entitlement. This is a right you have to quality health care- NAPE president Jerry Earle
As part of health care cuts contained in the controversial provincial budget in April, the ER saw its hours cut back from 24/7 to 12-hour-a-day operation.
While the protest was organized by citizens, it was NAPE president Jerry Earle who took the microphone first for an impassioned speech. When he asked if local MHA and Botwood native Jerry Dean was present, the crowd cackled and jeered.
"He's gone silent on this issue, as many MHAs across the province that represent this government have gone silent," said Earle, before referring to Dean's promise to fight for Botwood's emergency services in an interview with CBC's Central Morning Show in May, following comments in the House of Assembly.
"Your MHA had the audacity to stand in the people's house and say that people in Newfoundland in Labrador — Botwood and Leading Tickles inclusive — you had a sense of entitlement," he said.
"This is not a sense of entitlement. This is a right you have to quality health care."
Former MHA warns of impact of cuts
Former Exploits MHA Clayton Forsey, a Leading Tickles native, spoke about the risks for residents of the small towns outside of Botwood.
The hospital serves approximately 10,000 residents from Botwood to Leading Tickles and Fortune Harbour. An emergency in Leading Tickles would require an ambulance from Point Leamington, a 30-minute drive. That ambulance would then head to Botwood, a 50-minute drive.
If the emergency room is closed, the patient would travel another 30 minutes to Grand Falls-Windsor.
"This is something that we can't afford," Forsey said. "We can't put the lives of the residents in this district in that kind of danger."
'I'm this side of the sod now'
Town councillor Murray Roberts and deputy mayor Dennis Woolridge both voiced their opposition at the rally. Woolridge said the town had met with the provincial government and that town manager Stephen Jerrett has been in "constant contact" with Dean. To date, they have not received any follow-up information.
Following speeches from NAPE officials and town councillors, the crowd took its turn to speak. A former nurse came forward, followed by a patient in long-term care.
Hilda Snow, a regular patient with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) told of her last stint in hospital, and described how she ran out of oxygen at church and had been rushed to the hospital.
"If the emergency room was closed, I would not have made it to Grand Falls," she said.
Snow's fear and uncertainty are feelings Janice Dawe can identify with.
"I'm this side of the sod now. I made it," she said.
"But I really feel we need [emergency service]."