A question of semantics

·3 min read

Two months ago, residents of Carbonear were protesting perceived plans for cuts at their hospital under changes proposed by the Health Accord task force.

Mayors in the area feared they’d lose services such as surgeries and dialysis if the facility was reclassified as a community hospital instead of a regional one.

That, says Dr. Pat Parfrey, was an unfortunate case of miscommunication.

“People were up in arms in Carbonear, but we went and we did town halls, not only with the staff but with the people of Carbonear,” said Parfrey, who co-chairs the task force along with Sister Elizabeth Davis. “They had misinterpreted what we were suggesting should happen and had anticipated that we were going to recommend that surgery shouldn’t be undertaken in Carbonear. That’s not the case whatsoever.”

Carbonear Mayor Frank Butt says residents had good reason to be concerned.

It all stemmed from a slide included in a presentation by the task force that referred to three categories of hospitals: community, regional and tertiary.

“A community hospital, if you look it up, it means you’re going to have less this, less that. It’s going to be a community hospital, not a general hospital,” Butt said this week.

The slide even seemed to suggest surgeries would be the purview of regional hospitals only, of which the province would basically have three under the proposed framework. Carbonear wouldn’t be one of them.

Butt says he and other residents were subsequently reassured the terminology being used would not mean cuts in services. He says Sister Davis was particularly forceful.

“’Frank,’ she said. ‘What part of “there will be no reduction in services at the Carbonear General Hospital” did you not understand?’” he recalled with a chuckle.

Parfrey admits it’s been a challenge sometimes getting across what the purpose of the task force is. The Carbonear scare was one example.

“I think it derived from the way that we started the engagement process,” he said this week. “We said this was a framework for a discussion about services in hospitals. From our perspective it was a true engagement process where nothing was carved in stone, but the people themselves, when they read that, went to the endgame and said this is what they’re going to do.”

The primary work of the task force is coming to a close, with one more round of town halls planned for next week before a final report is issued around mid-December.

In January, he said, organizers will go to the public one last time and then finalize a plan of action that will serve as a blueprint for changes to Newfoundland and Labrador’s health and social systems over the next 10 years.

“There’s a lot of things that can start in the next year, if there’s a will to do so,” he said.

Parfrey says any significant initiatives under the Health Accord will need some form of startup cash.

“Any change that’s necessary is going to require upfront investment before you get the reward from it,” he said.

For a province swimming in debt, that may seem like a tall order, but Parfrey says they’re not necessarily looking in that direction.

“There are a lot of things that the federal government has interest in that will directly apply to the health accord,” he said. “They’re interested in poverty reduction, they’re interested in climate change, they’re interested in primary care and community teams, they’re interested in the aging population, they’re interested in digital technology. All those things overlap with where we want to go.”

Part of the task force’s goal is to develop a strategic approach to dealing with the federal government.

“That’s really the biggest source of new money.”

Peter Jackson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Telegram

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting