Hospital ‘disinformation’ not helping debate

Dear editor,
Shame on the Vancouver Island Health Authority Board for failing to clarify their plan for North Island hospital services.

Dear editor,

Shame on the Vancouver Island Health Authority Board for failing to step up to the plate and make it clear what their plan iswith regard to hospital services on the North Island.

A broad public discussion took place throughout the North Island throughout 2006, 2007 and 2008 on this question.

In the course of this VIHA, on Sept. 27, 2006, released their “decision” to eliminate the existing hospitals in Campbell River and the ComoxValley and replace them with a “regional” hospital at Dove Creek.

The discussion throughout that period was whether or not the needs of a widespread and growing population would be better served by one larger hospital or hospitals in each of the major population centres. An organization of citizens of both communities was established early in 2006, Citizens For Quality Health Care, to fight to preserve and enhance hospital services in both communities. At no time have there been”rival organizations” in the two communities.

For the information of those who are raising the demand for the elimination of a hospital in one or the other or both of the population centres, Comox Valley and Campbell River, because they think it will give us something greaterthan what has already been outlined by VIHA, let us look at the facts.

In September 2006 when VIHA announced one “regional” hospital, they provided a list of potential services. In 2009 when they announced their revised plan for new hospitals in both Campbell River and the ComoxValley, the services were the same.

They said that in the new Comox Valley Hospital there would be “40-50 beds for regional hospital programs, serving all residents of the Comox-Strathcona/Mt. Waddington area. These services, which are currently not available on the North Island, include but may not be limited to: MRI, Trauma Level 3, Inpatient Renal Services, Cardiac Medicine, Enhanced Cancer Care, Specialized Maternity and Nursery, and Enhanced Seniors Care.”  (page 7, North Island Hospitals Project Concept Paper dated January 2010 — currently available on the VIHA website— search for North Islandhospitals project concept paper”).

The 2006 “regional hospital” would have had 230 beds (VIHA press release and background documents dated Sept. 27, 2006, also available on the VIHA website) while theJanuary 2009 plan for two new hospitals includes 240 to 255 beds.

The list of “regional services” in the “regional beds” in the “two new hospitals” is the same as the list of services that VIHA said would have been at the one “regional hospital.” In other words, what is availableto patients is the same in both the VIHA proposals.

At no time has there been the slightest suggestion from VIHA that new hospitals would eliminate the need for North Island residents to travel to Victoria orVancouver for certain services.

In fact, in the January 2010 VIHA document referenced above it is stated that, under either plan, North Island residents would have to leave the North Island for about half ofthe services they currently have to travel for.

So, one hospital or two, the services that VIHA is planning are the same. Are theysufficient? Maybe not. Are there enough beds? Maybe not.

To their discredit, no VIHA official has contradicted those who said that one “regional” hospital would eliminate the need for people to travel for, for example, invasive cardiac procedures, to Victoria.  Aside from CEO Waldner it is doubtful that VIHA board members even know what either of their plans entailed. When questioned at public VIHA meetings during 2006 to 2008, ordinary board members did not know what was in their documents and could not explain what their proposals were, a clear indication that the process was driven from the top, from the level of the Ministry of Health Services and Partnerships BC, the provincial agency created to oversee the privatization of public services such ashospitals, through the Public Private Partnership (P3) mechanism.

VIHA CEO Howard Waldner has made it clear in answers to questions in public forums that VIHA and the Ministry’s intent is that any new hospitals onVancouver Island will be P3s.

P3s differ from the current arrangement at St. Joseph’s, which is owned by the Catholic Church as a not-for-profit enterprise. A P3 project typically has a consortium of least half a dozen private for-profit enterprises involved in financing, planning, construction and management, all deriving profit from thepublic purse.

I, personally, am all for discussion and debate.

Disinformation (for example, assertions that are not based in fact and serve only to manipulate and confuse) is not conducive to a healthy discussion and debate and, even worse, contributes to the creation of a situation in which the citizens are arguing about things that didn’t or don’t existwhile the ‘powers that be’ carry on with whatever they please.

Barb Biley,

Courtenay

P.S. The detailed document that VIHA released in September 2006 is no longer on the website but I would be pleased to provide anyone who is interested with a copy. Call me. I’m in the phone book.

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