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Comox Valley trustees concerned about new hospital location

School District 71 trustees and staff are concerned about the site chosen for the new Comox Valley Hospital.
SD71 superintendent Sherry Elwood presented a letter from the City of Courtenay at Tuesday's board meeting, which invites the district to meet with Courtenay and Vancouver Island Health Authority representatives to discuss concerns regarding the new hospital site at North Island College.
She noted the letter mostly refers to potential concerns regarding the 2.3 acres of land Courtenay plans to sell to VIHA for use in the hospital project. This land, known as Mission Road Playfield, is used by SD71 and other user groups for sports.
However, "That isn't what is causing us concern," said Elwood. "We believe we can come to mutually agreeable creative solutions around the loss of playing fields. That's not going to be a problem for us at all. We just have some concerns about the siting of a hospital that close to an elementary school."
Queneesh Elementary School, on Mission Road off Lerwick Road, is right next door to the land slated for the new hospital at the intersection of Ryan and Lerwick roads.
Trustee Rick Grinham said he has "serious concerns" about the health and safety of kindergarten to Grade 7 students at the school with a hospital next door, but further, he noted the land recently announced as slated for the new East Courtenay Fire Hall and Training Site is on Mission Road across Lerwick Road from the school.
"We have the most dangerous intersection in the Comox Valley (Ryan Road and Lerwick Road), now we're going to put a hospital there and also put a new fire hall, but yet, oh, we have a K-7 school with little kiddies running around," said Grinham. "I've got a real problem with it."
Grinham acknowledged discussion about where the hospital should go is now over but he wants to ensure SD71's concerns regarding student safety are heard by Courtenay and VIHA.
Trustee Donna Gambacorta noted a buffer zone between the two properties may be a good idea.
Trustee Janice Caton said she is not confident Courtenay will address SD71's concerns due to her personal experiences in dealing with the City, and wanted more "meat and potatoes" in the information sent from the City.
Elwood suggested starting discussions and seeing how things go from there, adding she does not have reason to doubt Courtenay's ability to address the school district's concerns, and Courtenay is the only group that has approached the district about the matter so far.
"We were pleased to see at least the City of Courtenay interested in engaging the school district in the conversation," she said. "Other than the City of Courtenay, we've had no conversation with anyone in the siting of the hospital process — no one has spoken to the school district in any of the possible sites — so that was causing me some concerns as the superintendent.
"Elementary schools create serious needs for us at any given site for supervision, and a hospital with a 24-hour traffic pattern and all the things that it might bring — hopefully all of which are resolvable — but as partners in the community we would like to have a voice in raising our concerns and we would hope that that voice would be heard."
Trustee Peter Coleman made a motion to refer the matter to senior SD71 staff for follow-up, which all trustees voted in favour of except Sheila McDonnell, who abstained as she opposes the hospital location entirely.
writer@comoxvalleyrecord.com

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