BACC’s Board of Directors strongly rejects the government’s claim that recently announced cuts will result in overall savings. Rather, a careful analysis shows irreparable damage to the Bonavista region’s local economy and greater long term dependence on government subsidy.
The shortsightedness of the Liberal government’s attempt to cut costs is effectively engineering, piece by piece, the economic demise of our region and a further dependence on government subsidy and assistance.
The Bonavista region is a leading example of a sustainable rural economic region, functioning at a level celebrated in most parts of the developed world. Uninformed and misguided decisions, such as those recently made by government agencies, will destroy the hard work of our economic stakeholders and will both devastate our long term future and will add to government cost.
The announced closing of our Advanced Education & Skills (AES) office, operating in Bonavista for over 60 years and the largest of the 10 to close, is without reason. It was alarming to learn that the 7 staff positions were not a surplus within the department, but that, in fact, 4 of the 7 positions were being moved 1.5 hours to Clarenville, and into a building charging higher rent than the Bonavista location. Recent data shows over 500 clients per month (40% of the Bonavista peninsula clients) being served out of the Bonavista AES office. Closing the Bonavista office and relocating services to Clarenville will, 1) eliminate 3 jobs, 2) force 4 employees to relocate or travel daily to Clarenville, 3) force clients to travel the 1.5 hours to Clarenville for service, and 4) erode our economy further when these clients decide to shop in Clarenville, as they most certainly will.Rather than close the Bonavista AES office, a truly thoughtful and fiscally prudent decision would have been to move the office, with its Bonavista jobs, to any number of semi-vacant spaces owned and paid for by the government. Our CNA Campus or circuit courthouse, for example, has space available at, essentially, no cost.
Announced cuts by Eastern Health make even less sense than the closure of our AES office. To save money, our Bonavista Regional Health Centre, serving over 9000 residents in our catchment area, will see our Emergency Room without on site X-Ray after 4 p.m. instead of the current 8 p.m. Eastern Health top management tout the savings of $90,000 per year for this reduction in service. Besides this causing major inconvenience, health risks, etc., to both staff and patients, we, as a Chamber of Commerce, dispute the alleged savings. Our findings conclude that, rather than saving $90,000 per year, this plan could actually cost the government between $300,000.00 to $547,000.00.
Our current on site X-Ray closure is 8 p.m with call in service after that time. Over the past 5 years the average number of patient emergencies requiring X-rays between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m. is 6 to 7 per week. It is reasonable to assume that this number would be higher for 4 p.m. and 8 am. The plan put forward by Eastern Health is to have patients travel by ambulance to Clarenville if requiring X-rays after 4 pm. The most up to date data shows that government subsidy for ambulance travel, return trip between Bonavista and Clarenville, is between $910 to $1,520. Should a nurse escort be required, which is often the case in an emergency situation, another $150 can be added. Using just the minimum of 6 trips per week for 52 weeks per year (312 trips), we calculate this cost, without a nurse escort to be $300,000 to $470,000 per year; with an escort, $347,000 to $547,000 per year.
Again, the lack of true fiscal responsibility is clearly, but sadly, evident in the cuts proposed by Eastern Health. Again, government services are being relocated outside of our region. Again, a government agency making cuts that have deep and serious short and long term fiscal consequences for our region and, ultimately, for our government.Just these two areas of proposed government savings illustrate the city-centric policymaking, city-centric media that too often support and substantiate this policy, and corporate St. John’s interests that hold sway over our provincial government. As well, falsified savings and centralizing services will serve only to increase cost and rip away the economic fabric of rural Newfoundland.The Bonavista Area Chamber of Commerce (BACC) strongly objects to our region being disregarded so thoughtlessly, carelessly, and irresponsibly by government bureaucrats. Uninformed and misguided decisions regarding AES and Eastern Health serve to kill sustainability and further and future investments in our region. As the rural economies decline, government subsidy increases. Where are the savings -economically, socially and emotionally in this? These direct assaults on our vitality and long term viability are not acceptable.
2nd Vice President/Public Relations