Long, arduous hospital debate was resolved

Opinions of the thousands of North Islanders (the majority) who want two hospitals should be respected too

We are writing this letter in response to Paul Rudan’s article in the Campbell River Mirror  on Wednesday.

Mr. Rudan’s opinion, which he is entitled to,  is that only one hospital should be built.  However, opinions of the thousands of North Islanders (the majority) who want two hospitals should be respected too.

This has been a long and arduous debate which was thankfully resolved when the Comox Strathcona Regional Hospital Board did a great service to all the people of the North Island in ensuring that all would have timely access to good quality health care by having two hospitals.

Mr. Rudan is certainly correct in stating that our Campbell River Hospital must have all sorts of maintenance headaches, causing problems for everyone.  That is due to long term insufficient funding to maintain it.

It is interesting that Mr. Rudan spoke to nurses and some doctors who feel we should have one hospital because that is the opposite view of our six-year experience of attending numerous council meetings, hospital board meetings, town hall meetings as well as regular hospital stakeholders’ meetings convened by our MLA Claire Trevena attended by doctors, nurses, hospital foundation, hospital auxiliary, union, First Nations, North Island mayors and councillors, Chamber of Commerce, ourselves from Citizens for Quality Health Care,  and others.  However, we never saw Mr. Rudan at any of those meetings during the past six years and he politely declined to sign our petition.

There were 10 of us, some from the Comox Valley and the rest of us from Campbell River who formed Citizens for Quality Health Care to bring the two communities together to maintain good quality health care for both communities (and the whole North Island) as VIHA was pitting the two communities against each other vying for one hospital.

The 19,000 “Upper Islanders” who signed our petition were mostly from the Comox Valley and Campbell River as well as people north of Campbell River. We were in attendance when our MLA presented our petition to the Legislature on Nov. 7, 2007. The petition did not ask for two new hospitals.  It stated; “The proposal by the Vancouver Island Health Authority to build a new regional hospital and to eliminate acute care services at the Campbell River General Hospital and St. Joseph’s General Hospital in Comox, is medically, socially and environmentally unsound and would cause great hardship to the residents of the North Island.

Your petitioners respectfully request that the Honourable House take the necessary measures to ensure that:

  • fully functional acute care hospitals are maintained in the Comox  Valley and in Campbell River,
  • the Vancouver Island Health Authority provides adequate funds to upgrade and expand our local hospitals,
  • our hospitals remain publicly funded and care be publicly delivered.”

Mr. Rudan is concerned about the cost of two hospitals stating it is upwards of $700 – $800 million.  These figures are incorrect.  VIHA’s website states a cost of $600 million.

This is where Mr. Rudan’s opinion and ours differs as he is focussed on cost as are others who wish to have one hospital.  We are focussed on patients and their right to timely accessible good quality health care.

It was the Government and VIHA’s decision initially (as of November 2005) to put one regional hospital in the Comox Valley which would have reduced the Campbell River hospital to little more than a first aid station. The extra time travelling there in adverse weather conditions was prohibitive for timely accessible health care for all the people of the North Island.  Which is more important, the lives and well being of the patients of the North Island or the cost of the hospitals? There were plans to upgrade both existing  hospitals to state of the art facilities which could have been a lot less expensive.  However, the government would like the Comox Valley hospital away from the control of the Catholic Church. Hence, instead of upgrading, new hospitals were decided. They will likely be built as P3s too which are more costly in the long run to all us taxpayers.

It is a myth that the one hospital would have everything we all need.  We are always going to have to travel to Vancouver or Victoria for tertiary and some regional services  that are only located in those large hospitals.  People from Nanaimo still have to travel for those tertiary (and some regional) services as those services are not located in their regional hospital. A few people are trying to revisit the one hospital in the Comox Valley idea. This is tantamount to saying the people north of Courtenay (the largest geographical area of Vancouver Island) do not deserve a hospital.  For people who live in Gold River or Sayward, what about the important “golden hour” to reach a hospital?  If the Campbell River Hospital was reduced to no longer functioning as an acute care hospital, we would be the largest city in Canada without a hospital.  It has worked well for many years with both St. Jo’s and the Campbell River hospitals providing regional services to large populations and the decision to continue to have two hospitals was a very wise one for which the Regional Hospital Board should be highly commended.

The Campbell River hospital is now the largest employer since Catalyst is gone.  Mr. Rudan may wish to research the losses to this community which would be incurred if our hospital is gone.  It would easily be as devastating as losing the mill was. We would lose our doctors, nurses, lab techs, all other hospital personnel all of whom pay taxes, buy groceries, clothing and everything else they require to reside in our community. The service industry that provides our hospital would be gone and there would be major losses to our local businesses.  Then watch our taxes skyrocket. Our community would no longer be attractive to retirees or young families either.

It is time to get on with the North Island Hospitals project.  Our dedicated doctors, nurses, lab techs and all hospital personnel deserve a good facility to work in and the patients of the North Island deserve the best of care in it.

Lois and Ed Jarvis

Campbell River