Grand Falls Community Health Committee calls for a moratorium on local chemo treatment

The Community Health Committee for the Grand Falls General Hospital (GFGH) says proposal by the Vitalité Health Network to maintain chemotherapy services is an "inhumane solution and is also an affront to the skills of the staff already in place."

The response is contained in a press release from the committee, who are calling for an immediate moratorium to allow the people of Grand Falls and surrounding communities to continue their treatments at the GFGH.

Victoria-La-Vallée MLA Chuck Chiasson said last week that the province had selected the health network's proposal to maintain service in Grand Falls and Saint-Quentin.

Vitalité said it would hire an additional registered nurse and implement a new "internal operations" model, allowing nursing staff to travel within those areas to deliver chemotherapy services.

The GFGH Community Health Committee says history shows this model is not a long-term solution, as it erodes a health service quickly, and that winter road conditions, sick leave, and other personnel issues would "create chaos with the treatment schedule."

The committee says nursing staff has provided oncology services in Grand Falls for over 25 years and ask that staff to be further trained and supported so they can continue to maintain current Canadian Cancer standards.

Health Minister Benoît Bourque said Friday that a solution was being finalized and that Vitalité's proposal was one of the options being considered, adding that a decision would be made "very, very soon."

Vitalité said it made the decision to slash oncology services in the two communities because low patient volumes made it challenging for nurses to maintain their accreditation.

But after receiving backlash from cancer patients and other citizens, the health authority announced last week that it had submitted a proposal to government.

(With files from Brad Perry)