Frustrated St. Anthony residents demand answers about hospital
'Every time you hear something about our hospital, it always seems to be bad news,' says committee organizer
Rumours are swirling in a Northern Peninsula community about impending changes to its hospital — and some residents are frustrated by what they say is a lack of answers from the health authority.
Dean Strangemore of St. Anthony, N.L., started a Save Our Hospital Action Committee group on Facebook.
He said it was because he heard rumours the acute-care unit at Charles S. Curtis Memorial Hospital will be converted into a long-term care, and instead, the obstetrics unit will be converted in to a medical surgery and acute-care unit.
"It just frustrated me that every time you hear something about our hospital, it always seems to be bad news," he said.
"People at the hospital can't speak out, but I can speak out."
Strangemore said part of the intent of his Facebook page is to keep the pressure on to maintain services, and even to get back services lost in previous cuts. A year ago, there were eight beds cut from the acute-care unit.
"That reduced the amount of people that can stay at our hospital, which means it reduces staff at our hospital. I'd like to get those eight beds back," he said.
We are not going to stay quiet on this.- Dean Strangemore
Labrador-Grenfell Health Authority issued a public statement earlier this month denying there are any plans to close or convert acute-care beds to long-term beds, and no plan for men and women to share rooms on the maternity ward.
Any changes will be done in consultation with the public, said the statement.
Health authority declines interview requests
The health authority has declined multiple requests from CBC for an interview on the subject.
"While we continually strive to create efficiencies within our system, there are no layoffs planned at the hospital," reads the statement issued on Feb. 8.
However, Debbie Forward, president of the Registered Nurses' Union of Newfoundland and Labrador, later told the Northern Pen newspaper that staff at the hospital were told by management that there would be a change in beds.
"Why would all those nurses go into a room to conjure up this lie to tell the public?" asked Strangemore.
"It don't make sense for these people to come out and say this. It would hurt their own reputation, let alone the hospital's."
Strangemore said he believes services at St. Anthony are suffering because management is based in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.
"Ever since Labrador and Grenfell came together under the one health board, things have just been slowly deteriorating at our hospital, and they've been getting better at Goose Bay for certain aspects," he said.
"Payroll department, stuff like that, was moved down there. The air ambulance was moved down there. Just a lot of stuff that's after leaving our hospital and going to Goose Bay."
Meeting to plan next steps
People from the Facebook group have been meeting in person to plan their next steps, said Strangemore.
"We are not going to stay quiet on this," he said.
"It's been going on too long. Too much stuff has been taken away from our hospital, and we need to keep it to keep our community. We need to keep it here in St. Anthony."
With files from CBC Newfoundland Morning