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Doctors asked to sign off on hospital plan

Doctors at Campbell River hospital are being asked to support a new hospital without assurance that it will fulfil the needs of the community, says North Island MLA Claire Trevena.

Hospital staff were recently sent a letter from the Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA) asking for their support of the business case which will be reviewed by the provincial government. The business case, a technical document asking the province for capital funding for two new hospitals – one in Campbell River and one in the Comox Valley, outlines the size of both new hospitals and services that will be available at each site.

Trevena says doctors do not have enough information and are being pressured into making a decision by Howard Waldner, VIHA’s CEO.

“Mr. Waldner at first told the doctors that they couldn’t see the business plan they were supposed to approve, and then told them they could see one copy but not share it with anyone for their opinions,” Trevena said. “These strong-arm tactics are enough to make people believe that VIHA is trying to get the doctors to sign off on a hospital plan irrespective of whether the hospital meets the needs of the local community. Then, if residents object, VIHA can lay blame at the feet of the doctors.

“This is political maneuvering when what Campbell River residents want is effective health care.”

But Waldner says all VIHA is looking for is a letter of support that it can submit to the province with its business case.

“We asked the physician community in the Comox Valley and Campbell River to simply provide us with a letter of support,” said Waldner, who provided the Campbell River doctors with a draft letter to give them an idea of what they would be signing and agreeing to. “I understand the docs in Campbell River seem to be confused by that. We’re simply asking them to confirm VIHA’s plan to build two new North Island hospitals. We got a letter back from the physician group in the Comox Valley saying they support the initiative. So I’m a bit confused and perplexed.”

Waldner said the doctors are not required to sign a letter of support but figures it would be in the doctors’ best interest.

“Personally, if I was thinking of funding a capital project and the folks up there didn’t support it I might think twice about it,” Waldner said. “The folks in Comox thought it made sense, they want a new hospital.”

Waldner said the letter that was sent to the Campbell River doctors was asking for staff support and nothing else.

“We’re asking for capital funding for two new hospitals and we want the doctors’ support, this has not got anything to do with what services will be provided (at the hospital). In fact there will be an expansion of beds at both hospitals,” Waldner said.

According to VIHA’s concept paper, the new Campbell River hospital is expected to have 90-95 beds, an increase of 30-35 beds, and “all currently provided services will continue at the new hospital.”

It is expected to be built at the site of the current hospital on 2nd Avenue. The cost of building the two new hospitals is estimated at $550 million.

Trevena said she is concerned VIHA is forcing Campbell River doctors to accept a hospital that won’t meet the community’s needs.

“I can appreciate the time and effort it takes to prepare for a new hospital,” Trevena said. “What I cannot accept is artificial, politically motivated timelines and political game-playing.”

Waldner said he’s been up front with hospital staff and has shared everything there is to know.

“We certainly met with the physicians and told the physicians the number of beds, the number of departments and assured them the current level of service will be maintained,” Waldner said.

Meanwhile, Campbell River hospital staff met last Friday morning and were expected to meet again Tuesday evening, after the Mirror went to press, to discuss whether it will sign off on the business case. For more information on the new hospitals visit www.viha.ca/about_viha/building_for_health/nihp.htm

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