Nfld. & Labrador

Waterford Hospital pulls the plug on water coolers

Eastern Health is reducing the number of water coolers at all its sites in an effort to save money and be more environmentally friendly, but critics say tap water at the Waterford isn't fit to drink.

Mental health advocate says Waterford tap water is inadequate

The Waterford Hospita in St. John's is an old building with little air conditioning. (CBC)

Staff at the Waterford Hospital in St. John's will have to look harder for a cold drinks of water from the coolers there.

Eastern Health confirmed Friday that it has begun reducing the number of coolers at the Waterford and other sites, in an effort to save money and be more environmentally friendly.

It said coolers will not be taken from inpatient units at the Waterford until a suitable alternative can be arranged.

Progressive Conservative MHA Steve Kent noted on his Facebook page that hot weather and the Waterford don't mix, with the only air conditioning located on the dialysis unit. 

Having water to drink is a basic human right that all are entitled to.- Mark Gruchy

"This ancient building does not have adequate air conditioning and does not have areas for staff or patients to cool off during hot weather," Kent wrote.

He said in some areas of government, the staff chip in and get their own coolers, but that shouldn't have to happen at the Waterford.

"I've been told that at other sites, staff sometimes rent water coolers and pay for it out of their own pockets," he wrote. "Maybe this is OK for office settings, but nursing units should be provided water for their residents and patients."

'Totally unacceptable'  

Jerry Earle, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees, also scoffs at the notion of staff paying for their own H2O.

"That's totally unacceptable," he told CBC. "In most modern workplaces it shouldn't be expected that working women and men would have to pitch in and purchase a water cooler. They can't pitch in and hide it away so residents can't have access to it."

Earle said he's been told it's unbearable working at the hospital on hot days, adding it's unrealistic to expect people working 12-hour shifts to drag around bottled water all day.

"It's just not practical. It's not an office environment where you can have ice water, drinking water, readily available. You're out working on a unit in a patient population, continously."

Water runs brown

Mental health advocate and defence lawyer Mark Gruchy says tap water at the Waterford Hospital is brown. (CBC)

Mark Gruchy of the Community Coalition for Mental Health says lack of air conditioning is one thing, but he's told the tap water runs brown.

"The Waterford Hospital is the last place in Newfoundland and Labrador that needs anything taken from it," he told CBC. "Having water to drink is a basic human right that all are entitled to.

"When you're in a state of distress and you need to recover to come back out into society, obviously not having things as basic as access to water, in a building that has temperature-regulation problems, is counterproductive to healing." 

Gruchy said the removal of the coolers is nothing more than an attempt to nickel and dime the hospital to save a few dollars, and will have serious human consequences.

About the Author

Cec Haire

Reporter

Cec Haire reports for CBC News from St. John's.