This is the house that Coleman built

Company offers accommodation to staff travelling to St. John’s for medical treatment

Published on March 20, 2014
This house on Freshwater Road is owned by Coleman Management Services and is used by Colemans staff travelling to and from meetings in St. John’s. It is also used by staff forced to travel for medical reasons, according to a company representative. — Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram

Becoming aware this week of the purchase of a property on Freshwater Road in St. John’s by Coleman Management Services, The Telegram wondered if the company might be expanding a grocery store in the area. It turned out to be something quite different.

On the property, at the corner of Freshwater Road and Linscott Street, sits a white, two-storey home.

It is a place to stay in the province’s capital city for Colemans staff in town on business. It has also been offered to staff travelling to St. John’s for medical treatment, according to Colemans spokeswoman Judy Bennett, in response to questions.

Colemans has about 800 employees in the province, she said, with a management group of about 30 people.

“Over the years, several of them travelled to St. John’s for medical reasons and we use the house for that reason,” Bennett said Tuesday afternoon, noting it has recently been used for an employee tackling cancer treatment.

“It’s very expensive to travel to St. John’s for cancer treatment,” she said, speaking by phone from Corner Brook.

In a recent transaction, one that drew The Telegram’s questions, Coleman Management Services took on a $300,000 mortgage for the property.

“That’s the first I’ve heard of that,” said Matthew Piercey, CEO of the Canadian Cancer Society Newfoundland and Labrador, when asked about the idea of a private company offering a company-owned property for employees to use when travelling for medical reasons.

When it comes to helping with the high costs associated with medical travel to the province’s capital — say those without friends or relatives to stay with — the Canadian Cancer Society in Newfoundland and Labrador offers Daffodil House, with 24 rooms and 24-7 support staff.

But Daffodil House is currently running 80 to 90 per cent full occupancy on average and, Piercey told The Telegram, that number factors in weekends, when medical treatments are not scheduled and people often plan trips home.

“We have a wait list all the time,” he said, estimating the lists often runs between 20 and 30 people, depending on the date.

Calling well ahead of time gives you a better chance of getting in. Yet it also means if you require a place to stay on short notice, you’re even more likely to be out of luck.

With that said, “we’ll actually help you find another location if we are full,” Piercey said.

Other options include the Agnes Cowan Hostel and several hotels offering discounts and various supports for guests in town to complete required tests or take treatments.

In terms of helping with costs, the Dr. H. Bliss Murphy Cancer Care Foundation has a program offering support for cancer patients who are having a hard time financially as a result of their need for treatment.

Eastern Health offers the Cancer Patient Navigator, helping to direct individuals to programs designed to help cover travel costs and accommodations, including the province’s medical transportation assistance program.

The medical transportation assistance program does not, however, cover costs up front but rather through set reimbursements, based on expenses filed.

As for expanding Daffodil House, Piercey said another 24 rooms could be added this week and they would still fill up, but it would be a real challenge to keep up at the other end with the annual operating costs for the facility. Daffodil Place relies on fundraisers and donations to continue operating year to year.

Another location providing accommodations related to travel for medical treatment is Ronald McDonald House, offering 15 suites in St. John’s to families with children who require treatment for illness or injury and who are travelling at least 80 kilometres for help.

At Ronald McDonald House, spokeswoman Christine Morgan said she had not heard of any private companies offering employees who are in a similar situation a place, a house, in which to stay.