Revisiting the site selection process for a regional hospital would be “prohibitive in terms of cost and time,” the Health Ministry has stated in response to an appeal from Coun. Bronco Moncrief of Cumberland.
In a letter, Moncrief asked Health Minister Mike de Jong to revisit issues concerning a regional facility, which is targeted for construction at North Island College.
Several years ago, he said the Comox Strathcona Regional Hospital District and Vancouver Island Health Authority wanted to explore building one regional hospital in either the Comox Valley or Campbell River while maintaining a community hospital in the other community, as opposed to continuing to pour money into two facilities. The practice, Moncrief explains, has “proven successful in other regions to attract specialists.
“All wholeheartedly supported VIHA in this forward-thinking approach and the CSRHD board voted 17-3 to support this model,” Moncrief states, adding the cost was to be about $350 million.
However, following political debate and special-interest group lobbying, Moncrief said VIHA decided to build two facilities in each community at a new cost of $600 million. As for location, consultants hired by VIHA recommended the hospital be located at or near the Inland Island Highway.
But Moncrief said a ‘local’ consultant team comprised mostly of Courtenay staff recommended Ryan Road in East Courtenay, which he and Mayor Fred Bates have criticized in terms of inaccessibility, proximity to 19 Wing, and high-traffic volume and accident rates.
The college locale is option No. 2. In the summer, the Department of National Defence nixed the first choice at Ryan Road across from Crown Isle.
The Health Ministry said the college site has “considerable merits,” including proximity to the school and potential for training healthcare staff.
“Never has synergy with nursing students been the criteria for deciding on the model or location of a hospital and I believe that is simply a means of justifying a decision they know is wrong,” said Bates, who — like Moncrief — is not seeking re-election this fall.
He feels there is no desire to make the hospital “a strong public issue.
“I am very concerned that the province will spend an extra $300 million-plus to create the exact problem we have now with divided facilities and the lack of ability to attract specialists, and they will do it with eyes wide open.”
The college and VIHA are working on an agreement for use of the land. The ministry expects the business case to be presented for review by the end of October. It will then submit a capital budget request to government for consideration.
“Government will review the ministry’s capital budget request, along with similar requests from other areas of government, to ensure priority programs and services to British Columbians are delivered as efficiently, effectively and affordably as possible,” the ministry states.