Staffing still an issue at Carbonear General

By Mark Squibb/January 20, 2022

Carbonear Mayor Frank Butt says the lack of an ENT (Ear, Nose, Throat) doctor at Carbonear General Hospital means that folks are having to drive to St. John’s for appointments that could just as easily be held in Carbonear.

“A fellow came into my business, and I started talking with him, and I said, ‘What are you doing today?’ and he said, ‘Believe it or not, I’m bringing father into the Health Sciences to meet with the ENT. It will probably only take 15 minutes, but I’ve got to drive all the way into St. John’s for probably a 15-minute appointment.’ And to him it didn’t make sense. We have a big hospital here, and it’s getting renovated and updated, and there’s no ENT specialist. So, they had to go to St. John’s. It doesn’t make much sense. That’s what we’re concerned with, the erosion of services at the Carbonear General Hospital.”

Butt was responding to an inquiry from The Shoreline, which had heard from some residents in Carbonear that people showing up at the Emergency department of the hospital were being shipped to St. John’s by ambulance if they needed to be admitted to hospital, because there was nobody at the facility to admit patients after hours.

The problem of staffing at the hospital has been around since 2019, following the resignation of several doctors, including a number of internists – doctor that specialize in the internal organs, including the heart, kidney, liver and lungs.

“Right now, there is a shortage of internists at the Carbonear General Hospital, although there are some of them over there, though the ENT, I don’t believe, was replaced, so that’s one service that’s gone,” said Butt.

The mayor allowed the delays in replacing the positions can be frustrating.

“I know we’re in the middle of COVID, and there are physician shortages and all of that, but are they going to be replaced? That’s the question,” said Butt. “Are they going to be replaced? That was the concern I had years ago, and I brought it to council and of course they were concerned as well. So, here we are, we really don’t know. It’s easy to say, ‘Well, the COVID is on the go, we can’t do much about it,’ and stuff like that, which is probably true, but you can still work between the scenes recruiting physicians or retaining physicians.”

He said it’s been roughly a year since council last met with representatives from Eastern Health, as well as MHA Steve Crocker, about the situation.

“They tell us stuff, but we still don’t have physicians,” Butt said. “So, we have to do something.”

This past November, council met with RE Boot, a local organization of doctors and administrators, to discuss how to attract and retain doctors to Carbonear.

“When we met in November with this new group, we did say we would give it a little bit of time, with the Christmas season coming up, and the new year coming up. But I’d say between now and spring we’ll be reaching out to this group again and we’re going to get together,” Butt added.

He hopes that Re Boot will address an upcoming Joint Avalon Council meeting.

In the meantime, though council is not in the job of hiring doctors, Butt said it is doing what it can to make Carbonear attractive to doctors.

“We can certainly do our part to retain doctors,” said Butt. “Our facilities here in Carbonear are second to none. We continue to improve our facilities, and recreation and what not, so if a physician were to look at Carbonear General Hospital, they might say, ‘Well, what does Carbonear have in town?’ Well, we have a track-and-field, swimming pool, tennis court, softball, basketball courts, football. So, if their family wants to move to Carbonear, their children can certainly find some kind of activity to do, which is why some people move to a particular area… So, we do our part, and we continually invest in infrastructure to make our community an attractive community to move to.”

Butt said upwards of 80,000 people in the catchment area rely on Carbonear General Hospital.

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