For the last four years, the Dr. Hugh Twomey Health Care Centre in Botwood has been without 24-hour emergency services.
Just prior to the 2019 provincial election, then-premier Dwight Ball pledged to bring those services back to the hospital in the fall of 2020 once a protective care unit was finished.
According to Exploits MHA Pleaman Forsey, the time has come for the Liberal government to come through on its promises.
“We are left with a commitment from the Liberal minister of health to review the service after the long-term care facility was finished in Botwood,” Forsey said in a prepared statement this week. “That’s not good enough.”
The provincial government stripped the hospital of the service in 2016 in a move by Central Health to reduce its operating budget.
An analysis completed by the Department of Health in 2018 indicated patient data supported the decision.
Forsey recently sent an email to Central Health about the issue and was told the new health unit is expected to be in use by the end of this month.
“This creates added stress to the residents of the Exploits district,” Forsey said of not having 24-hour emergency services.
SaltWire Network contacted the Department of Health and Community Services for comment, but no response was received prior to deadline.
On several occasions since Ball pledged the return of 24-hour emergency services, the Botwood council has written to Gander MHA John Haggie, the minister of health and community services, regarding the status of emergency services at the hospital.
Botwood Mayor Scott Sceviour said responses the town has received have not indicated if or when any announcement will be made about the return of regular emergency services.
At the time, the town was caught off guard by the decision to alter the emergency services at the hospital.
It was expected to help save money, but the mayor says little money has been saved by the decision.
“There was no justification for it,” he said. “It was a surprise to all of us.”
Now that the area MHA has brought the issue to the forefront again, Sceviour said the town will write to Premier Andrew Furey about the commitments of his predecessor and bring him up to speed on the situation.
Botwood is scheduled to have a council meeting this week, where the issue will be on the agenda.
“We are going to hold this government to the promise,” said Sceviour.
Nicholas Mercer is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter covering central Newfoundland for SaltWire Network.