With more beds per capita for long-term care located within St. John's, residents there have a greater chance of being placed into care quicker than those in other parts of Eastern Health
They are also able to be placed closer to their homes within the metro region
as a result of a better ratio of available beds to the population.
The number tell the difference between the services available in St. John's to those living in the Clarenville region.
There are 1,134 long-term care beds that serve St. John's, which in 2011 had a population of 196,666. That translates to one bed for every 173 people, all within 30 kilometers of one another – except for 16 beds which are located on Bell Island.
There are 127 beds for the area that encompasses the isthmus, Clarenville, Swift Current, Terra Nova National Park, Bonavista and everywhere in between. In 2008, 28,355 people lived in that region, which translated into one bed for every 222 people.
Zelda Burt, media relations manager with Eastern Health, explains, "There are more beds in St. John's because it serves a greater area."
The difference in beds is one thing, but the difference between where those beds are located is another. There are 109 kilometers between Clarenville and Bonavista – where the region’s long term care facilities are located – but for those who live beyond the two urban centers, the difference can be double that.
As a result, people are beginning to speak up.
A month ago, CBC ran a story about a Clarenville woman who accused Eastern Health's first available bed policy of being disproportionately favorable to those who live in St. Johns.
The policy states that those who live outside St. John's are to be placed in the nearest available bed within 150 km, whereas those in who live within the capital are placed in the first available bed within the city.
Bernice Vey's mother was being treated at Clarenville Hospital when she was relocated to a retirement home in Clarke's Beach, almost a two-hour drive from her home.
"Our fear is that she will have a stroke away from her family and a two hour drive is just not acceptable for us,” Vey said in an interview with the CBC.
Eastern Health CEO Vicki Kaminski has since said the merging of the first available bed policy – after two new long-term facilities are built in St. John's and Carbonear – will help correct the issue by having the same policy apply to all areas of Eastern Health.
Vey also took issue with the fact that no one could tell her when her mother would be moved back to Clarenville.
This raises the issue of wait times. There are currently 54 people waiting to be placed into their desired long-term care facility in Clarenville and the surrounding area, with an estimated 18-24 month wait.
“The biggest ordeal was getting the facts. I could never find out where my mother is on the list. If she goes to Bonavista, where is she on this list? I kept being told there’s a list.” - Kay Young
There are 125 people waiting in St. John’s, but Eastern Health could not provide estimated wait times. They did say, however, “there is more flexibility to accommodate within St. John’s for St. John’s residents.
A couple years ago Kay Young went through a similar situation to Vey’s with her own mother, who was moved from Clarenville Retirement Centre to the O'Mahoney Manor after having a stroke.
Young told The Packet earlier this month her mother was moved from one room to another, 13 times, before her mother agreed to go into long-term care in Bonavista until a long-term bed became available for her in Clarenville.
“The biggest ordeal was getting the facts. I could never find out where my mother is on the list. If she goes to Bonavista, where is she on this list? I kept being told there’s a list.”
The list, Young said, appears to vary on circumstance and case-by-case evaluations.
"If it’s a situation where one spouse takes ill and the other can’t look after them, that makes a difference,” said Young, adding, “I think what made me the most upset was the fact that some people got in there (O'Mahoney) without having to go to Bonavista.”
The Packet requested to see the "list" and how it is evaluated, but was told by Eastern Health, "There are wait lists; however, Eastern Health would not be able to share the information, as it contains the names of people."
Beyond wait times, Young said the distances people are asked to travel to see loved ones in long term care is a strain that is uniquely rural and present problems beyond geographical distances.
“That was a fear with my mom being in Bonavista, during the winter the road can be treacherous. In Clarenville, I can be there in 20 minutes. No older person wants to leave their home where they’re going to see faces they know, to be put somewhere they don’t know anybody. It’s hard on the family, too.”
Young feels it's a case of too many cooks in the kitchen and, as a result, people who need help the most are being left to make do.
“I’ve always maintained there’s enough money being pumped into health care that we should have better services. There are more offices than there are beds. We need beds and front line people.”
Young feels it's not an issue entirely understood by Eastern Health and said they don't have the experience to understand how to deal with the situation.
"They haven't lived here, they don't know," she said.