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Frustrated by chronic nursing turnover, Mary's Harbour council meets with health authority

·3 min read
Mary's Harbour and Lodge Bay residents raise their signs as representatives from Labrador-Grenfell Health leave a meeting with town council Monday. (Regan Burden/CBC - image credit)
Mary's Harbour and Lodge Bay residents raise their signs as representatives from Labrador-Grenfell Health leave a meeting with town council Monday. (Regan Burden/CBC - image credit)
Regan Burden/CBC
Regan Burden/CBC

Residents of Mary's Harbour, N.L., hope a meeting with the regional health authority will spur a solution for a long-standing problem with retaining nurses at the Labrador community's health clinic.

On Monday, representatives from Labrador Grenfell Health were in Mary's Harbour to listen to the town council's concerns about chronic turnover at the community's health clinic.

During the meeting, nearly 40 people gathered outside with signs to express their concerns about the community's quality of health care, including Chelsea Smith, whose twins were born prematurely and have compromised immune systems. After returning from spending a month in the Janeway children's hospital in St. John's, she said, she became worried about the quality of health care her children would receive at home.

"I think they deserve better health care and so does everybody in this community. They deserve better than this and we're not stopping," said Smith.

Smith says she wants answers.

"Why are we going without a nurse and not being notified? Why is it every time I go to the clinic there's a different nurse and she don't even know where the blood pressure cuff is because she only got there an hour ago?"

Regan Burden/CBC
Regan Burden/CBC

Nina Rumbolt-Pye, who helped organize the gathering, says she has had problems with her own health care and has collected similar stories from other residents to share with the town.

"Diagnostic testing is being done often because there aren't enough staff who consistently know the patients to be able to diagnose," said Rumbolt-Pye.

Regan Burden/CBC
Regan Burden/CBC

Rumbolt-Pye says she has collected between 30 and 40 stories from residents to share with the town and says there would be more but some residents are worried the clinic will refuse to see them if they speak out.

Coun. Larry Rumbolt said the town first raised the issue with the health authority in 2013 but nothing has been done.

"All it takes is the will from Labrador-Grenfell Health to step up to the plate and do what needs to be done," said Rumbolt. In the last three years, says the town, 38 nurses have worked at the community clinic, which has just two staff nursing positions.

Rumbolt said residents have told him stories of asking to see their medical charts but there is nothing written down from previous appointments and nurses aren't aware of patients' medical histories.

Regan Burden/CBC
Regan Burden/CBC

Rumbolt's own wife recently had a mastectomy and is undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer. He said if there were continuity of care in Mary's Harbour, she would have been diagnosed sooner.

"It took a doctor from St. John's to order blood work," said Rumbolt. "Luckily, her file ended up on the desk of an excellent surgeon and she was determined to figure out what was going on with her and wasn't satisfied with her file, she said her file was a mess."

Some progress

After the meeting with Labrador-Grenfell Health, Rumbolt said some progress was made, and says the town will meet to figure out the best way to present residents' experiences to Labrador-Grenfell Health.

Labrador-Grenfell Health CEO Heather Brown told the crowd the health authority wants to hear from people about how the turnover is affecting them.

Regan Burden/CBC
Regan Burden/CBC

"We need to find answers together, so I really appreciate everybody wanting to come forward," she said. "The community being really concerned is important because the community needs to work with the health authority to look at what does the future look like in terms of care."

Labrador-Grenfell Health declined to comment to CBC, but Brown said the health authority that they will speak about the "big picture" in the near future.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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