Dispelling myths about new Comox Valley regional hospital

Dear editor,

Recent letters to the editor about the hospital issue reflect many misunderstandings, myths and rumours.

Dear editor,

Recent letters to the editor about the hospital issue reflect many misunderstandings, myths and rumours.

Perhaps that is because the issue has been under discussion since 2003 (Bernie Jones consultation process) and people have simply forgotten the details or been overwhelmed by too much information and/or misinformation.

Myth 1 — People don’t want two hospitals.

A. Carpenter stated “in the two years the hospital issue has been under discussion, I have yet to talk with anyone who supports the two-hospital option.” Perhaps Carpenter was not around in 2007 when 19,000 people signed a petition supporting two fully functioning hospitals — one in Campbell River and one in the Comox Valley. This was in response to VIHA’s daft plan to place a single “regional” hospital near Dove Creek where there is no infrastructure.

In February 2008, the Comox Strathcona Regional District Hospital board withdrew its support of the Dove Creek proposal for very sound reasons. As a regional board, they saw the need for a hospital in each of the two major population centres.

Myth 2 — One “regional” hospital would provide more specialty services than two hospitals.

In January 2009, VIHA came forward with the current proposal to build a new hospital in Campbell River and a new hospital in the Comox Valley. The good news is that they agreed to provide the  same “regional” services in the current two hospital plan that VIHA had previously proposed for the Dove Creek option.

While the Comox Valley will have the larger hospital with most of the “regional” beds and services, Campbell River will maintain its current services in a new facility with additional beds.

Myth 3 — A single regional hospital would eliminate any need to travel to Victoria or Vancouver for surgeries or treatments.

Not so. Some of the services provided in tertiary hospitals in Victoria and Vancouver will not be available here no matter what is built on the North Island. We’ll still travel.

Myth 4 — St. Joseph’s Hospital will continue to function as an acute care hospital indefinitely.

Once the new hospitals are built, St. Joseph’s will no longer be a hospital and will not have an emergency department. VIHA CEO, Howard Waldner stated, “What is planned is that facility will continue with a mandate likely around residential care or palliative care or primary health care.” (Comox Valley Record, Jan. 30, 2009.)

That is, no matter what new hospital(s) are built, St. Joseph’s will not remain a hospital. Instead, it will provide other important health services.

A few people are now suggesting that we should go back to the one regional hospital plan. This is tantamount to saying that the citizens of Campbell River don’t deserve a hospital.

Are we suggesting that they should all simply move to the Comox Valley if they want to live near a hospital?

For people who live in Gold River or Sayward, what about the important “golden hour” to reach a hospital? I challenge the letter writers who are proposing one hospital to submit those letters to the Campbell River  and Gold River newspapers and see what the response is. I cannot support a  “beggar thy neighbour” approach.

Please get the facts before spreading more misinformation about the hospital proposal. Check out the VIHA website or write to them for clarification. It is really time to get on with it.

J. Fairbanks,