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Silence about new Comox Valley hospital site disappoints her

February 7, 2013 · 5:34 PM
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Dear editor,

My final thoughts on the hospital issue are to voice my considerable disappointment in our elected representatives as well as the people of the Comox Valley who have not spoken out for the future of their health care.

After communicating with municipal, provincial, and federal representatives (including VIHA) a serious lack of leadership is obvious regarding the plan for two community hospitals to be built as opposed to one regional facility. The decision to build Comox Valley’s new hospital on a site with little or no room for expansion takes it from bad to worse.

In 2005/2006 VIHA went through an extensive public consultation process with residents, staff, physicians, community partners, aboriginal leaders and other stakeholders, across every region of VIHA.

Through this process, they identified a need for enhanced specialty services for North Island residents. Building a new regional hospital that would serve the northern communities  provide services similar to those available at Nanaimo Regional Hospital was the recommendation.

The VIHA board voted to support the creation of a new North Island Regional Hospital located along the Island Highway within the Comox Valley. This option was felt to provide the greatest opportunity to deliver sustainable acute care services for the residents of the North Island.

Currently, patients and families in this area must travel to Nanaimo and Victoria for these specialized services. One regional hospital could have changed that.

After VIHA outlined its decision in 2006, the next two years were filled with community bickering. Political weakness allowed a vocal minority (less than 10 per cent of the population affected) to scrap the plan for one regional hospital that was originally supported by the Comox Strathcona Regional Hospital District (CSRHD).

The inefficiencies of two smaller hospitals will continue to drive costly duplication of services and equipment. Two communities sharing specialists for emergency care will continue requiring patients to be shuttled from hospital to hospital.

Not one specialist I have spoken with feels that the two hospital plan will maximize staff and physician recruitment or retention potential. The cost of having nursing staff “on-call” for two hospitals is outrageous both in monies and staff exhaustion. This could have been eliminated with a regional hospital that would have had 24/7 staffing.

Many nursing students I have spoken with state they will go to larger hospitals for work as they will NOT work on an “on-call basis”, earning less than $5 an hour to be on call while their family lives are impacted negatively by their exhaustion.

VIHA states that they “will provide some services at both sites and others at one site having a single, integrated, medical, nursing, and support service staff working across two sites.”

Not one health care professional I have spoken with plans to work in both facilities with the exception of a few RNs who work in both facilities now simply to make financial ends meet.

Some of our specialists in anesthesia and obstetrics have already left for Alberta, and others are making plans to leave the Comox Valley in 2013. How can consistency for patient care not be compromised with fewer specialists?

Compared to the rest of VIHA, the North Island region has the poorest health status. People who live on the North Island are admitted to hospital more frequently than elsewhere in the health authority region.

We needed a properly funded regional hospital to provide appropriate and cost effective care. I always felt that we and our future generations deserved better than the promised continuation of a fragmented and inconsistent delivery of services.

Every elected official I communicated with was “in agreement” with my points. Yet not one would stand up and say so publicly. I have been informed that “the decision has been made” and “there’s no turning back.”

The last public VIHA meeting (for which I was out of the country and could not attend) apparently had only 25 or so attendees from the community. I am told that much of the discussion was about noise reduction and tree placement.

I have read every single newspaper for the past three weeks looking for public statements of concern. The front page tells of a sweet woman getting a set new of dentures and letters to the editor are about dog feces and the verdict for Chum and Champ.

There obviously really isn’t significant local public interest in the future of our health care services. With the apparent apathy for holding our elected representatives accountable, all that seems to remain is for the politicians to pose for the ribbon cutting. Intensely disappointing indeed.

Barbara E. Mellin, RN,

Comox

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