Nfld. & Labrador

Removing water coolers at Waterford 'wrong' as a cost-savings measure, says critic

The department of Community and Health and the Tory health critic are arguing whether or not clean drinking water is available at the aging Waterford Hospital.

Steve Kent says the tap water has been deemed safe, but it's brown with a 'funny' smell

Steve Kent posted this picture on Facebook saying it's the discoloured tap water at the Waterford Hospital in St. John's. (Steve Kent/Facebook)

Gossip around the water coolers at Waterford Hospital is around the water coolers themselves.

The department of Community and Health and the Tory health critic are arguing about whether or not clean drinking water is available at the aging 161-year-old hospital.

MHA Steve Kent, the Progressive Conservative health critic, says staff at the Waterford are telling him some water coolers have already been removed and all are expected to be eliminated by September.

However, the department of Health and Community tweeted Tuesday night that "water coolers have not been removed from the Waterford Hospital. They continue to be in place for the comfort and care of patients."

Water brown with 'funny' smell

Kent, the former Tory health minister, says although the hospital's tap water has been deemed safe, it's brown in colour and has a "funny" odor.

It's outrageous.- Steve Kent, health critic

He also takes issue with the Waterford's air conditioning system, calling it the worst out of all the province's health care facilities.

"For John Haggie to suggest that the living conditions are OK, it's outrageous," Kent told CBC's St. John's Morning Show on Wednesday.

"The man needs to tour the Waterford Hospital as soon as possible."

Eastern Health confirmed it was removing a number of water coolers from some hospitals, including the Waterford, as a cost-savings measure. (CBC)

Meanwhile, the department tweeted Tuesday the air conditioning is available at various parts of the Waterford.

"In addition to air conditioning in the dialysis unit of the Waterford Hospital, there is air conditioning on several inpatient units," read a series of tweets.

"There is also air conditioning at the Waterford Hospital in some patient lounges and dining areas."

Juice and milk instead

Without water coolers, Kent said patients are receiving more expensive drinks when they are thirsty.

According to Kent, that's going to end up costing the department more money than keeping the water coolers.

PC MHA Steve Kent says cutting access to clean drinking water isn't an appropriate cost-savings measure. (Katie Breen/CBC)

"Nursing staff, and I'm hearing from some directly, are resorting to giving patients milk or juice when they ask for water because they don't want to give them the tap water that's brown and smells bad," Kent said.

"What's supposed to be a cost-savings measure will actually probably lead to costing the health authority more money if that's the action staff are taking."

Eastern Health statement

Last week, Eastern Health released a statement saying it is in the process of removing water coolers at all of its sites as a cost-savings measure, and a move to become more environmentally responsible.

It's wrong, it's disgusting and there's definitely a better way.- Steve Kent

While Kent said there are clearly financial reformed needed to the province's health care system, taking away water coolers isn't a reasonable measure.

"The way to do it is not to take away clean drinking water from the mentally ill, some of society's most vulnerable," said Kent.

"It's wrong, it's disgusting and there's definitely a better way."

The health authority said water coolers weren't removed from units where managers felt they were necessary for patient comfort. Those units with water coolers are being evaluated for alternative arrangements.

Eastern Health said if a solution isn't found, the water cooler will remain indefinitely.

With files from the St. John's Morning Show