Home Occupational Health & Safety ‘I’m just stuck in limbo’: Labrador woman says she can’t work until she gets an MRI over two years after workplace accident

‘I’m just stuck in limbo’: Labrador woman says she can’t work until she gets an MRI over two years after workplace accident

By Sanuda Ranawake | The Telegraph

When Courtney Colbert was knocked off of a snowmobile in Nain while at work, she didn’t expect to be waiting two-and-a half-years to find out the extent of the damage to her body.

Her accident was brutal, but she says the wait for an MRI isn’t much better.

“I went to turn around and the track was sticking, and I pressed more on the throttle, and she just took off. And I flew off and smacked the whole right side of my body. I blacked out for a moment,” Colbert recounts of the March 2023 accident.

An emergency room doctor referred her for an MRI.

Requesting an MRI

Colbert says her MRI referrals were sent in May of 2023.

“My workplace adjuster had recommended that I call out to the Health Science and see if I could find out where I was on the list to get an idea of how long it would take,” she says.

She was told that she was looking at a year-long wait.

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Courtney Colbert has to wait two and a half years for an MRI. She says Labrador needs an MRI machine either in Happy Valley – Goose Bay or Labrador City. – Contributed

“I wasn’t a high priority based on my injury. The doctor hadn’t specified that there needs to be a rush. I had figured that would be May 2024, or even June 2024 when I got the MRI,” says Colbert.

Fast-forward to Feb. 6, 2024.

“I got a letter in the mail from Eastern Health,” she says. “I opened it up and it said that my appointment was scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 2, 2025, at 9:50 p.m. and that’s two-and-a-half years.”

Long wait

Colbert says the long wait is putting her in a tough situation.

“I know we’re limited to MRI machines in the province, but it’s what’s holding me up on a treatment regimen. They don’t know the extent of my damage,” says Colbert.

The MRI, she says, is to pinpoint exactly what type of injuries she experienced in the snowmobile accident.

“Then see, if based on the damage, if there were an actual course of treatment that would help make me better,” she adds.

Out of work

Colbert can’t work until she gets her MRI, but she can’t get a different job in a field she can work in, either.

“I have thought about other options, but if I were to leave my current employer and go and find something else, then Workplace NL isn’t going to pay for MRI accommodations or anything. Right now, staying at this job, if there is anything to do with medical, Workplace NL will cover the expenses,” says Colbert.

“If I leave and find something else, then when the time rolls around for this MRI, they’re not going to support me because I chose to leave my job. Whereas if I stay at work, and they decide they don’t have work for me, then they just release me from my contract. I’m just stuck in limbo.”

Equipment needed in Labrador

She says Labrador needs equipment badly. Colbert wants to see an MRI machine in Happy Valley-Goose Bay or Labrador City and says going out to the island for treatment is unacceptable.

“We in Labrador, whether it’s here (Labrador City), whether it’s Goose Bay, we need the equipment to be able to do these tests. We built a brand-new hospital here in Lab City not too long ago,” says Colbert.

“For us to have this updated facility and yet the best that we can do is ultrasound, CTs and x-rays, why did we build this better facility when we still got to go out to the island for testing?”

Getting little back

Colbert says Labradorians are tired of giving too much in taxes but getting little in return.

“Labrador is rich in money; we have iron ore companies. We have mining towns,” she says.

“The amount of money that comes out of these towns for the province is way more than what the island is doing combined. Why can’t we or Goose Bay have these machines? Clearly, there’s a there’s a need for it.”

Looking to Quebec

Colbert says many Labradorians are now opting to go to Quebec for health care instead of dealing with the long waits and high cost of transportation for health care on the island.

“It’s cheaper for you to fly to Montreal and pay the out of province cost to be seen quicker and with better professionals. How sad is it that people in Labrador are going to another province for their health care because it’s cheaper and it’s faster?”

She, too, would have gone to Quebec if it wasn’t for the stipulations with Workplace NL.

A bigger issue

Colbert says MRIs are only a symptom of the larger issue. She says health care as a whole in the province is crumbling.

“If you were to ask about health care in general, the amount of people that would chime in for the lack of health care in Labrador. Everything is falling apart when it comes to healthcare in Labrador,” says Colbert.

The provincial government recently promised an increase in MRI operations to 15 hours a day, seven days a week.

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This MRI machine is the same as the one used at the Health Sciences Centre in St. John’s. – Submitted

A sixth MRI machine in Corner Brook is expected to begin operations soon.

Colbert says she’s happy to see an increase, but it’s not enough.

“They can do it all they want, but the real issue is that we don’t have an MRI machine in Labrador. Why do I have to go out all the way to St. John’s for an MRI?”

Government’s response

In a statement to SaltWire, NL Health Services says patients should contact the Client Relations Office or their doctor if they are concerned.

“NL Health Services makes every effort to ensure each patient is assessed in a timely manner though MRI appointment wait times can vary,” the statement reads.

“Wait times for non-urgent MRI exams are subject to change and may vary by zone and based on individual circumstances, with current estimates ranging from approximately 125–427 days.”

In a statement regarding required travel for medical needs the Department of Labrador Affairs says patients should refer to the MTAP (Medical Transportation Assistance Program) and the ISMT (Medical Transportation Benefits for Income Support Clients.)

As for Colbert, though, says she’s spending yet another day not knowing the extent of her damages.

“I always say to people, if you’re someone that is ill and you live in Labrador, you’re pretty much signing your death warrant,” Colbert says.

“If you expect to get top-notch health care, you’re living in the wrong town.”

Sanuda Ranawake is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter covering Indigenous and rural issues.

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