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Goose Cove family express concerns around ambulance availability for non-emergencies

ER Ambulance
ER Ambulance

A Goose Cove family is concerned about cutbacks to ambulance services after a recent experience at the hospital in St. Anthony.

Agnes McCarthy’s husband Jerome, 62, is quadriplegic.

On Nov. 5, they called for an ambulance around 3 p.m. for a non-emergency transfer for Jerome to Charles S. Curtis Memorial Hospital.

That went without issue.

The ambulance brought Jerome to the hospital where he had his G-tube replaced.

Around 10 p.m. he was ready to return home.

However, the family’s request to use the ambulance again on the return trip was denied.

According to Agnes, they were advised it was against the hospital’s policy to use an ambulance after dark for non-emergencies.

As there was no other way to return Jerome home, due to his condition, he had to be admitted overnight.

The ambulance brought him home the next morning.

Agnes, a retired nurse who worked at Charles S. Curtis for 38 years, was “disgusted” by the treatment.

She questioned why a bed was being occupied unnecessarily.

“It just poisons me, to know he couldn’t come home but he could occupy a bed that maybe someone else might have needed,” she told The Northern Pen.

She doesn’t believe the hospital saved costs either, as she says it costs more to have someone admitted than to use an ambulance for a return trip to Goose Cove — a town just 12 kilometres from the hospital.

Agnes believes the policy is new as it’s not the first time they had called upon an ambulance to transport Jerome to the hospital.

The ambulance would always bring him home, even after dark, until now, she says.

Agnes hopes this isn’t a policy that’s being enacted across the province, given the strain she believes it would put on bed availability.

But it’s just that.

Labrador-Grenfell Health released a statement to The Northern Pen indicating in 2015 the Department of Health and Community Services directed the health authorities that ambulances were not permitted to transport, non-emergent, non-urgent patients over highways after dark.

The directive was in response to safety concerns associated with travelling in areas with adverse weather conditions, unlit roadways and with substantial moose populations, a spokesperson said.

Non-emergency transfers are permitted at night provided the route does not include highway travel.

But Agnes doesn’t buy this explanation and doubts the legitimacy of such safety concerns.

“We got to travel that highway all the time, why is it any difference for an ambulance?” she asked.

Per online maps, the highway between St. Anthony and Goose Cove is about eight kilometres.

Agnes believes the province simply doesn’t want hospitals to call in a second crew for non-emergency calls.

“That’s the real reason,” she said. “And it all boils down to dollars, which they’re wasting by admitting him anyway.”


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