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Campbell River city council airs hospital project concerns with VIHA

A meeting between city council and the Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA) did little to solve doctors’ concerns surrounding new hospitals for Campbell River and the Comox Valley.

Mayor Walter Jakeway said council discussed a number of issues with VIHA Chief Operating Officer Howard Waldner and health authority board chair Don Hubbard in Parksville last Wednesday.

“Most major issues and concerns were introduced, although not resolved,” Jakeway said.

The most pressing issue for local doctors is VIHA’s proposed one hospital, on two sites business model. Under that structure, the medical staff at both the Campbell River and the Comox Valley hospital would work as a single, cohesive unit.

Campbell River doctors worry that under that model Campbell River medical care will suffer at the expense of a larger, Comox Valley hospital.

Doctor Roy Minaar, Campbell River medical staff president, said at a meeting last month the model is open to interpretation but insisted “I believe acute care services will all go to one site – and it won’t be Campbell River.”

Dr. Grant Hollett, the health authority’s director of planning and community engagement, wrote in a letter to the doctors that the proposed model will lead to better access to quality medical care.

“This project provides us with an excellent opportunity to create a new medical staff collaborative model between both communities that will maximize the quality and access of our services,” Hollett wrote in his letter.

The project, which still needs to be approved by the provincial government, proposes a new hospital in Campbell River, located at the current hospital site on 2nd Avenue, and a new hospital in the Comox Valley. The cost of the project is estimated at $550 million.

VIHA formally submitted the business case, requesting funding for the project, to the government in late December.

The health authority said there is no timeline as to how long it will take to get a response.

Jakeway said he worries that once the funding is approved, VIHA will ignore the doctors’ concerns.

“My concern is that as soon as they get the dollars approved they’ll stop listening because they’re not really listening now,” Jakeway said at last month’s medical staff meeting. “I think we have to cut them off at the pass.”

Jakeway made an effort to do that last week during a brief discussion with Waldner and Hubbard.

“The discussion was clear, frank, and deliberate,” Jakeway said. “It was very useful for council members and the VIHA attendees to clarify their expectations, understandings, intentions and priorities.”

Jakeway said both parties talked about conducting future meetings, which he said are certainly required.

“Several significant hurdles need to be cleared to increase the benefits of meetings between and with VIHA, the regional hospital board and neighbouring local governments.”

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