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NAPE stages protests in Grand Bank and Burin


It was not just the weather that had residents hoping for brighter days as Newfoundland and Labrador’s largest public union took its fight against the provincial Liberal budget to the Burin Peninsula Tuesday.

In a rally organized by the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public Employees (NAPE), union representatives, council members, and concerned citizens assembled to demonstrate against the scheduled closure of the Grand Bank Supreme Court in July, tax increases and job cuts mandated by the recent provincial budget.

 For at least one participant at the rally, the closure of the Supreme Court really strikes home.  

Rowena Hapgood, a 33-year employee at the facility, said she will have no job to go back to after July.

“This is very emotional for me. I have worked here since 1983. Right now in July, I do not have a job to go back to,” she said.

“I am presently off on sick leave, with only two years to go before retirement. I am stuck; I can’t bump because I am in a managerial position, even though I have the most seniority in the building.”

Hapgood said she is disappointed the government has not offered any programs or anything for early retirement. 

Far-reaching effect 

Protesters also gathered outside the Burin Peninsula Health Care Centre to voice their concerns about cutbacks to health care in the region over the lunch hour Tuesday.

“Generally, (with) the overall budget, I am very sad,” said Julie Mitchell. “The general public elected this government on their promise of hope for the future and we all live on hope, but they seem to have diminished that overall.” 

The proposed cutbacks to health care in the province have a far-reaching effect, she said.

“It’s not just about healthcare workers. It is about all of us,” she said.

One of the cuts announced for the Burin Peninsula that affects her is the cancellation of a 12-bed protective care residence in Burin for patients suffering dementia, Mitchell said.

“Three years ago my dad was admitted to hospital because of his severe dementia and there was no dementia bed available for him at that time,” she said.

Her father spent nine months in an acute care bed in the Burin hospital, she explained. 

“It wasn’t the proper setting and of course, you were using the resources of an acute care bed— the nurses, staff, the doctors, and you can’t tell me that was an efficient use of health care money. But it was because there was no bed available for him,” Mitchell said.

While she is unsure of how many people need the beds, she said when her father was still alive, the demand was there for another facility.

“With a population that is growing older instead of new births, we are having more elderly people in our province than we are younger people. That need is only going to increase many times over instead of decrease,” she said. 

Mitchell said while there are nine beds available in St. Lawrence, it puts some at a disadvantage. 

“If you live in Terrenceville, you have to drive right to St. Lawrence to see your loved one, whereas the major health care facility is here and you could have your dementia unit here too…," she said.   

'Going to cost us'

Back in Grand Bank, Mayor Rex Matthews told the protesters enough is enough.

“We who live in rural Newfoundland must stand up and be counted.  We can’t take it anymore. It’s going to cost us big time,” the mayor said.

“We all understood that the budget was going to be tough. This budget is not tough, this budget is brutal.”

Matthews also highlighted concerns over the cuts to health care services at the Grand Bank Health Centre, noting X-ray services will now be available from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. only.

That decision defies logic, he said. 

‘Never mind that the people who do the blood work (which will continue as is) also do the X-rays. The logic for this escapes me,” he said.

Matthews said he is afraid other cuts to health care might be looming in the future.

“The cuts we see so far represent just 1.3 per cent of what the health board is expected to cut. If they have to save another 28.7 per cent, what’s going to happen then? Are we looking at shorter hours, some closures, downsizing doctors and nurses? So many things have to be discussed,” he said.

NAPE president Jerry Earle told those in attendance for both protests government is not listening.

“Have you heard a word from your MHAs? Their silence speaks volumes. Who are they supporting – the people who live in these communities on the Burin Peninsula or the Liberal party?” Earle asked in Grand Bank.

“It’s the people they should be speaking on behalf of and they are not doing it.”

colin.farrell@tc.tc

@Colin_TCMedia

In a rally organized by the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public Employees (NAPE), union representatives, council members, and concerned citizens assembled to demonstrate against the scheduled closure of the Grand Bank Supreme Court in July, tax increases and job cuts mandated by the recent provincial budget.

 For at least one participant at the rally, the closure of the Supreme Court really strikes home.  

Rowena Hapgood, a 33-year employee at the facility, said she will have no job to go back to after July.

“This is very emotional for me. I have worked here since 1983. Right now in July, I do not have a job to go back to,” she said.

“I am presently off on sick leave, with only two years to go before retirement. I am stuck; I can’t bump because I am in a managerial position, even though I have the most seniority in the building.”

Hapgood said she is disappointed the government has not offered any programs or anything for early retirement. 

Far-reaching effect 

Protesters also gathered outside the Burin Peninsula Health Care Centre to voice their concerns about cutbacks to health care in the region over the lunch hour Tuesday.

“Generally, (with) the overall budget, I am very sad,” said Julie Mitchell. “The general public elected this government on their promise of hope for the future and we all live on hope, but they seem to have diminished that overall.” 

The proposed cutbacks to health care in the province have a far-reaching effect, she said.

“It’s not just about healthcare workers. It is about all of us,” she said.

One of the cuts announced for the Burin Peninsula that affects her is the cancellation of a 12-bed protective care residence in Burin for patients suffering dementia, Mitchell said.

“Three years ago my dad was admitted to hospital because of his severe dementia and there was no dementia bed available for him at that time,” she said.

Her father spent nine months in an acute care bed in the Burin hospital, she explained. 

“It wasn’t the proper setting and of course, you were using the resources of an acute care bed— the nurses, staff, the doctors, and you can’t tell me that was an efficient use of health care money. But it was because there was no bed available for him,” Mitchell said.

While she is unsure of how many people need the beds, she said when her father was still alive, the demand was there for another facility.

“With a population that is growing older instead of new births, we are having more elderly people in our province than we are younger people. That need is only going to increase many times over instead of decrease,” she said. 

Mitchell said while there are nine beds available in St. Lawrence, it puts some at a disadvantage. 

“If you live in Terrenceville, you have to drive right to St. Lawrence to see your loved one, whereas the major health care facility is here and you could have your dementia unit here too…," she said.   

'Going to cost us'

Back in Grand Bank, Mayor Rex Matthews told the protesters enough is enough.

“We who live in rural Newfoundland must stand up and be counted.  We can’t take it anymore. It’s going to cost us big time,” the mayor said.

“We all understood that the budget was going to be tough. This budget is not tough, this budget is brutal.”

Matthews also highlighted concerns over the cuts to health care services at the Grand Bank Health Centre, noting X-ray services will now be available from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. only.

That decision defies logic, he said. 

‘Never mind that the people who do the blood work (which will continue as is) also do the X-rays. The logic for this escapes me,” he said.

Matthews said he is afraid other cuts to health care might be looming in the future.

“The cuts we see so far represent just 1.3 per cent of what the health board is expected to cut. If they have to save another 28.7 per cent, what’s going to happen then? Are we looking at shorter hours, some closures, downsizing doctors and nurses? So many things have to be discussed,” he said.

NAPE president Jerry Earle told those in attendance for both protests government is not listening.

“Have you heard a word from your MHAs? Their silence speaks volumes. Who are they supporting – the people who live in these communities on the Burin Peninsula or the Liberal party?” Earle asked in Grand Bank.

“It’s the people they should be speaking on behalf of and they are not doing it.”

colin.farrell@tc.tc

@Colin_TCMedia

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