8 emergency rooms closed in Newfoundland over Labor Day weekend

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Anyone looking to enter the William H. Newhook Health Center emergency room will see this sign stating that the area has been temporarily closed. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

Eight emergency rooms are closed in Newfoundland for varying lengths of time this Labor Day long weekend.

Eastern Health says US Memorial Health Center in St. Lawrence is closed Friday through Monday, September 5 at 8 a.m. and Dr. William H. Newhook Community Health Center in Whitbourne will be closed for another week, with reopening now scheduled for Monday September 12.

For the Western Health Region, Bonne Bay Health Center uses virtual emergency services until Sunday at 8 a.m., then goes virtual again Monday at 8 a.m. through Wednesday.

Virtual emergency services are also helping in Central Health. Emergency rooms are closed at Connaigre Peninsula Health Center in Harbor Breton, Dr YK Jeon Kittiwake Health Center in New-Wes-Valley and AM Guy Memorial Health Center in Buchans throughout the long weekend and are expected reopen Wednesday morning. However, there is a six-hour window on Tuesday when virtual ER assessments will be available at all three health centers.

Additionally, the Lewisporte Health Center ER is closed Sunday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and the Green Bay Health Center ER in Springdale was closed Friday through Sunday morning.

In all of these cases, health authorities say the closures are due to staffing shortages. In the event of an emergency, authorities advise calling 911 or going to the nearest open emergency room.

A man stands at the microphone during a press conference.  He stands in front of a Newfoundland and Labrador flag.
Health Minister Tom Osborne hopes a $50,000 increase in the incentive for family doctors could ease the doctor shortage. (Patrick Butler/Radio Canada)

“That’s the reality of the times we live in, where healthcare professionals are in short supply,” said Tom Osborne, Minister of Health. He thinks the situation should improve in the coming weeks.

“Over the next couple of months, as people get back to their work routines after taking vacations or time off over the summer, we certainly hope to see some of the pressures, in terms of diversions, ease a bit. won’t solve all the problems.”

Osborne says the province is still working on other solutions and will continue to offer scholarships, signing bonuses and other incentives.

“We are increasing coverage for family physicians moving to the province from $100,000 to $150,000 for a start-up incentive.

In addition, in the coming days, the provincial government will launch a request for proposals on virtual care services.

“The optimal coverage is to have a family doctor or to have a doctor in the emergency department,” Osborne said. “But definitely virtual care is better than not having access to a doctor or the emergency department.”

“We aim to provide coverage in areas where coverage is lacking.”

A woman in a red shirt and glasses stares at the camera.
Whitbourne Mayor Hilda Whelan said the continued closure of the Dr. H. Newhook Community Health Center is concerning for the town. (Katie Breen/CBC)

Hilda Whelan, mayor of Whitbourne, said she was not surprised the town’s health center will remain closed for at least a week after already being closed for much of the summer.

“We don’t have the doctors,” she said. “Put simply, we need doctors, nurses, paramedics.” Whelan said the community had lost three doctors and needed at least two more to get the center back to normal operations.

Whelan says that while financial incentives from the province should help in some way, she thinks the real problem is a change in College of Physicians and Surgeons regulations that sees Canada accepting a limited number of medically-trained doctors. foreigner per year.

“You still need these foreign doctors,” she said. “We have been very well served by foreign doctors.” Whelan says the rule needs to be changed to allow more foreign doctors to work in the country.

While Whelan is optimistic the situation will improve soon, she said the shortage of doctors is still a concerning issue for people living in the area and has affected her personally.

“I am a cancer survivor. I have been receiving bone treatment every six months since I had my cancer. My treatment was delayed for five months.”

She is not the only member of her family to rise to the challenges. “My brother had a heart attack,” she said. “They got him in the car and took him away. He said ‘It’s not good to call an ambulance, I’ll be here for four hours.’ It’s like that.”

“All these people who don’t get care for these issues, they’re getting sicker and sicker and they’re going to take longer and more doctors to take care of them.”

“Everyone is very, very disappointed,” Whalen said. The townspeople asked him what they should do in an emergency. His answer is simple: “All you can do is pray it doesn’t happen.”

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