There has been a recent spate of letters over the last few weeks by qualified people stating we need one regional hospital.
The hospital board over the last decade has wrestled with the pros and cons of one regional hospital to serve both Campbell River and the Comox Valley. The decision has been made for two hospitals with the Comox Valley hospital responding to a variety of regional needs.
The sites are established. Tom Sparrow, who is overseeing the construction of both hospitals, has been hired and moved into the community, a local office has been established and a website created to inform the community at www.viha.ca/about_viha/building_for_health/nihp.htm. We are moving positively towards two new hospitals to be built and ready in the next five years.
Prudent decision-making by past and present boards has established an annual increase in taxes for these new hospitals and our taxpayers should have about $80 million saved by the time the hospitals are built. This will save our community millions of dollars in interest and other cost charges.
The community is responsible for 40 per cent and the province 60 per cent of the $600-million cost. We are in good shape financially, and because of that it has helped us get to the top of the list by providing $3 million for the hospital business case.
If we decide we now want one regional hospital as our recent letter writers are stating, we would lose our $3-million business case funding and more than likely set the building of our hospitals back a decade, possibly two decades.
It would be a catastrophic health care mistake for this to happen to our community. There are plenty of communities in B.C. that are vying for new hospitals and health-care dollars.
However, let’s turn these negative letters into a positive force for good health care.
We need to find a way to manage chronically ill seniors into appropriate beds and health care. We need to protect those high-cost acute-care beds for those citizens who need them the most and we have to find a way to make that happen.
I would suggest to our recent letter writers that they could channel their energy into a possible new utilization for St. Joe’s. A committee could be formed to work with VIHA and St. Joe’s to examine the care needs for people with dementia, palliative care and the myriad of other needs for our fast-growing senior community.
St. Joe’s has provided 100 years of service to our community. I am suggesting these well-qualified letter writers can help our community and St. Joe’s to provide a much more humane and cost-saving health service for the future.
We have five years to make it happen. If we do make it happen, we will have saved our future acute health-care costs by millions of dollars, provided a better health service and respected the good work of a great hospital by giving it the task of serving our community in another way.
Now that is a challenge we could all take on.
Editor’s note: Jim Gillis is the Area B director with the Comox Valley Regional District.