Roddickton resident looking for answers as town's only doctor prepares to leave in December

·3 min read
The White Bay Central Health Centre in Roddickton-Bide Arm will be without a physician by the end of 2021. (Labrador-Grenfell Health - image credit)
The White Bay Central Health Centre in Roddickton-Bide Arm will be without a physician by the end of 2021. (Labrador-Grenfell Health - image credit)
Labrador-Grenfell Health
Labrador-Grenfell Health

A Roddickton-Bide Arm man says a doctor shortage in the region is "the tip of the iceberg," as the community prepares to be without a physician entirely by the end of the year.

Travis Gillard, a spokesperson for the newly-formed Save our White Bay Central Health Centre Action Committee, said he was prompted to take action after there was no doctor available at the health care centre over the Thanksgiving weekend.

He said he voiced his concerns on social media and heard from many people who share his worry.

"The people in this area are very shocked over the recent goings on at [Labrador-Grenfell] Health. I would call it a crisis at our local clinic," Gillard told CBC Radio's Newfoundland Morning on Thursday.

"It was shocking. What we're seeing is the tip of the iceberg, the stuff that's being put out publicly … I can't imagine the stress that these people are working under when you get emergency situations arising."

Roddickton-Bide Arm is one of several communities across the province facing a doctor crunch. According to Gillard, and later confirmed by Labrador-Grenfell Health, the community's only physician will leave the town on Dec. 20.

Gillard also pointed to concerns over the region's ambulance services, like a recent instance in which he said he drove a man to hospital an hour and a half away in St. Anthony because an ambulance wasn't available.

He said there is a need for openness from both the province's health authorities and the provincial government.

"We know there's a crisis in health care in the province, maybe across the country … we want answers, and we're adamant. We want the best health care available to our residents here in this area," said Gillard.

"We've got a doctor who's a premier, a health minister who's a doctor … we should be in the best position possible to have the best health care available with these critical positions filled by health-care workers. But what we're seeing is quite the opposite."

'We need to put our heads together'

Heather Brown, president and CEO of Labrador-Grenfell Health, said she is aware of the current situation in Roddickton-Bide Arm and that no doctor is currently in place to fill the place of the leaving physician.

She said her team is continuing efforts to recruit more medical professionals, along with finding ways to make sure patients' needs are addressed with the resources available.

"The bigger picture, really, is how are we going to be able to work together to ensure that people have access to the services that they need," Brown told Newfoundland Morning on Friday.

Labrador Grenfell Health
Labrador Grenfell Health

"We are still struggling with both nursing and physician recruitment. And we're providing care. We're coordinating care to use our registered nurses and our licensed practical nurses to the best that we can … based on what they need."

Brown said support could come through virtual care in necessary cases, but Gillard said he has concerns that virtual care may not always be an adequate replacement for an available physician.

He hopes to bring his concerns and other questions to the health authority in November during a health authority meeting with community members.

"We're looking forward to meaningful conversations," Brown said.

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