Health minister guarantees obstetrics unit will stay in Gander
After mothers and doctors raised concerns about the possible closure of the obstetrical unit at James Paton Memorial Regional Health Centre, Newfoundland and Labrador Health Minister Tom Osborne says Gander will get to keep it.
The unit in Gander has struggled to remain open due to staffing levels. Pregnant women were told to seek assistance in Grand Falls-Windsor — nearly 100 kilometres away — for periods in 2013, 2016, 2017 and 2018, and the Health Accord — a provincial blueprint for redesigning health-care delivery in the province — recommended permanent diversions to Grand Falls-Windsor.
On Wednesday, Osborne said there's a need for obstetrical units in both communities.
"I've looked at the number of births in both locations and I believe there's a need for obstetrics in both locations," he said. "There will be two sites."
However, Osborne said there still has to be a focus on recruiting health staff.
"We have to focus on the recruitment and retention of individuals. That's been one of the challenges in the central region and perhaps part of the reason for the [Health Accord] recommendation."
Osborne said health shortages are a challenge across Canada and abroad but his department is focused on recruiting health staff to operate units in both Gander and Grand Falls-Windsor, covering about 90,000 people.
He said the province's recruitment strategy of recruiting nurses from India will "provide solid results" though those nurses still have to go through the immigration process, which will take "a number of months."
Osborne said Newfoundland and Labrador is also looking to the U.K. for physician recruits next week after spending time in Ireland.
"We have been working diligently at the recruitment of health-care professionals with incentives such as the Come Home incentive, the family practice startup incentive and other incentives and bursaries," he said.
"We are as competitive or more than most Canadian jurisdictions. We are in a very globally competitive environment at the moment in terms of recruitment because there's a shortage of health-care professionals in every province and globally."
Osborne said diversions from Gander to Grand Falls-Windsor for obstetrical services will end as soon as the province is able to recruit the health staff needed.