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Health hub model faces some push-back at Comox-Strathcona board

Hospital district board is considering model to reduce demand on area hospitals
The CSRHD board is looking into a health hub to ease pressure on area hospitals, but some board members are questioning the move. File photo

The idea of a hub for health services in the Comox Valley has been talked about in recent months.

It got a little push-back though at the latest board meeting of the Comox Strathcona Regional Hospital District (CSRHD), the body made up of local and regional government representatives who oversee raising local revenue for capital projects in health care.

A few members such as Strathcona director Jim Abram questioned whether the CSRHD should be taking on this responsibility and suggested if provincial or regional health authorities want a hub, they should be funding it. He cited a line in a staff report suggesting Island Health will explore spaces to address clinical and operational needs, even if a partnership is not feasible.

“I would suggest we let them go ahead,” he said. “I don’t feel this is a taxpayer responsibility to consolidate and create this hub.”

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Edwin Grieve, who sits on the Comox Valley Regional District board, also posed some questions. His issue was not so much with the concept, particularly as the issue is in the early stages of discussion, but he questioned the timing. He cited factors such as inflation, rising property values, the availability of labour and escalating construction costs for many infrastructure projects as reasons the CSRHD board might wish to move cautiously.

“I’m not suggesting we cut this off at the bud right now,” he said.

Grieve said CSRHD might need an experienced staff person dedicated to health services to help consider the feasibility of the project.

Proponents for a hub model that could house a range of health providers point to improved services, greater ease of access and economies of scale as reasons to move ahead, along with the idea that it could ease pressure on acute care facilities like the two North Island Hospitals that opened in 2017.

Claire Moglove, one of the Campbell River directors who has also sat on Island Health’s board, supported looking into the hub model and said from her experience health care delivery was less effective when delivered in silos.

“It has to be done as a whole system,” she said.

At a previous meeting, an Island Health representative pointed out many current facilities are getting older and will need infrastructure improvements.

For now, the board was not required to provide any action, and as the discussion is still in the early stages, most directors favoured continuing to discuss the possibilities for a regional service hub. At a meeting last November, the board passed a resolution to explore the hub model and the possibility of co-operating with Island Health.

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