Important, long-term hospital decisions being rushed

Dear editor,

I recently received by regular mail the Hospital Update Issue 1.

Dear editor,

I recently received by regular mail the Hospital Update Issue 1.

There was little new information beyond what the local papers had reported following the City council meeting in early may when the VIHA representative presented the concept plan.

I have considerable concern that the open house slated for June will not happen until July while VIHA places pressure to stay on their schedule of zoning approvals by September.

Typically, public meetings for purposes of zoning are not held during the summer vacation months as they are recognized as being poorly attended and therefore not in the best interest of residents who may be affected by the proposed zoning change.

This is not acceptable. It appears that VIHA is putting the gun to the City council under threat that if this does not get the necessary approvals according to their schedule then provincially approved funding may be withdrawn.

I attended a VIHA meeting in Campbell River March 30 and expressed my concerns on, firstly, the decision to go with two hospitals instead of a larger single hospital serving the North Island and, secondly, the choice of the Courtenay hospital site on Lerwick at Ryan Road.

I was politely informed by Chairman Don Hubbard that I was “seven years too late” with objections concerning the two-hospital decision. Since I only moved to the Comox Valley on July 1, 2010, I accepted his point on this topic.

I had written a letter of objection to VIHA dated March 8, 2012 with copies to all elected officials for Courtenay, Campbell River, Comox and the regional districts for Comox Valley and Strathcona.

I received acknowledgment from only Mayors Jangula and Jakeway and director Brenda Leigh. My letter was also copied to the premier and ministers Falcon, deJong, Abbott, Lekstrom and MLAs McRae and Trevena, none of whom found it necessary to respond.

It seems that the only way elected officials or appointed directors will pay attention is if there is a mass petition process brought to bear.

Petitions have a place in our democratic process but they are generally a very poor way for persons in an elected position to make important decisions by having their voting power, which should be based on sound information from professional staff and consultants, thwarted out of fear of re-election.

The fact that this hospital decision has taken as long as it has is evidence that a mistake may be imminent if something like a location for the Courtenay hospital needs to be expedited through a zoning process during a time when citizens are either not available (vacations) or do not have time (end of school year and graduations) to pay attention to the process leading to council decisions.

The VIHA board appears totally tired and frustrated by the long delays and is looking for a fast conclusion that may not be in the best interest of the North Island citizenry.

School District 71 appears to be paying attention as evidenced by their serious objections in a front page-article on May 25.

These are long-term (50 to 100 years) decisions that deserve the very best consideration possible. The current plan to proceed with two hospitals instead of one is not, in my opinion, in the best interest of current and future citizens living north of the Nanaimo hospital district.

Locating the choice for Courtenay on Lerwick at Ryan is a poor second choice considering, amongst other evidence, that there will be four traffic lights in 0.7 km between Ryan corner (posted as a high crash site) and Mission Road.

I urge Courtenay council to think long and hard about why they would choose to locate a new hospital in such a high-developing area, next to an elementary school that needs the playground they plan to sell! If VIHA has no other suitable alternative site as a backup to locate a hospital then I seriously wonder how much effort this decision will be based upon.

Our citizens deserve better!

Thomas Witty,

Courtenay

Editor’s note: Thomas witty says he previously served three terms as a municipal councillor in the Okanagan Valley.

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