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Health concerns raised at Burin regional consultation

Florence Jarvis says there are days she simply doesn’t have the time to speak to students who have asked for her for help.

Elaine Chatigny, assistant deputy minister of population health for the Department of Health and Community Services, addressed participants of the primary health care consultation in Burin Friday afternoon.

A guidance counsellor at Donald C. Jamieson Academy in Burin and registered psychologist with a private practice, Jarvis said provincial education guidelines allow one counsellor for every 500 students.

As Jamieson has 400 students, Jarvis spends 25 per cent of her time teaching. The remainder focuses mainly on testing children for learning disabilities, she said.

“There’s very little time left for counselling and no time to do the proactive work like getting in the classroom and doing presentations.”

Jarvis was among the participants for a public consultation on health care in Burin Friday afternoon.

It was one of several sessions that are being held around the province to gather ideas and information in the lead up to next month’s Premier’s Summit on Health Care in St. John’s.

In announcing the summit, Premier Paul Davis said the time has come for a holistic review of how primary health care is delivered in Newfoundland and Labrador.

“Most of the time what I’m doing is just putting Band-Aids on crisis situations,” Jarvis said. “There’s absolutely a need for more counsellors.”

Everett Farwell was another participant of the regional public consultation.

A town councillor in Burin as well as chair of the Burin Peninsula Joint Town Council, Farwell said he was planning to speak as an individual at the session and not on behalf of either organization.

Of particular concern, Farwell said, is the shortage of general practitioners in his town. Burin has lost two family doctors in the past two years. Farwell said the age of those remaining is also worrisome.

“We’re into a situation now where we possibly have got a potential crisis on our hands in relation to the age of the GPs,” he said.

“We’ve got more physicians in the province now than we’ve ever had, but I’d like to see more on the Burin Peninsula, specifically the Marystown-Burin area. For instance, I know an 85-year-old lady (from Burin) who got to go to St. Lawrence to see a general practitioner.”

Affordable dental service for low- and middle-income earners was another issue on Farwell’s agenda to discuss.

Both Farwell and Strang were hopeful the upcoming summit will improve health care in the province.

“I believe that any time a government agency or department or any other group takes time to sit down and collaborate with the public and get their viewpoints and their ideas, it’s always beneficial,” Farwell said.

“Hopefully, they’re actually going to listen to the people and implement some of the things that come forward,” Strang added.

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