Saturday, October 21, 2017

Skeena MLA seeks more info on Mills Memorial replacement plans

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross made some inquiries on the status
of the Mills Memorial Hospital replacement plan, speaking
during the course of a Health Committee session at the Legislature

The quest for some firm information on a timeline for replacement of Mills Memorial Hospital in Terrace made for some of the discussion this week at the Legislature, with Skeena Liberal MLA Ellis Ross taking advantage of a Health Committee session mid week to review the status of the process.

During the course of the Wednesday evening session, the Skeena MLA made inquiries on a number of items related to the Mills Memorial proposal to Health Minister Adrian Dix, leading off his questions for the Minister with some background on the process from the Terrace side of the proposal.

I think we agree on the priority for hospitals all around B.C., but I think we also agree on the need for a replacement for Mills Memorial Hospital. I've talked with a number of different organizations. I've talked with a number of different MLAs. What I understand is that the concept plan was resubmitted back in February, and I assume that your government is actually reviewing it right now. Can I get an idea of the timeline on when the government will decide on whether or not the concept plan will be approved or not?

In response to the inquiry, Mr. Dix, observed that the MLA didn't have the overview quite correct, he then  reviewed how the government is approaching that process, noting that the previous government had not acted on the concept plan when first submitted and that the new government is seeking a renewed plan, one that takes into account some of the changing circumstances, such as industrial expectations, particularly around LNG and other areas.

When it comes to the Terrace proposal, the Health Minister also noted that the revised concept plan is expected by November of this year.

He also observed that within Northern Health, there are a number of other proposals to consider, with Dawson Creek, Prince George, Fort St. James and Quesnel all have projects that under review. However, Mr. Dix did however highlight, that Northern Health had identified the Mills Memorial project as a priority.

Ellis Ross raised the theme of the
Mills Memorial Hospital replacement
process during a Health Committee
session on Wednesday
As Mr. Ross continued to advocate for the Terrace hospital, he sought out some kind of ballpark estimation as to where the Mills proposal may be when it comes to priorities.

The Skeena MLA then reviewed for the Minister the strategic nature of the health care facility and how the lack of progress on a replacement is having an effect on recruiting health professionals in the Terrace-Kitimat region.

I guess I'm not really telling you anything that you don't already know about Terrace Hospital. It is a regional hospital. It services Prince Rupert, Kitimat, Niska, Smithers, even people from Haida Gwaii go there, and it is an outdated facility. 

 We're having a tough time attracting doctors in Kitimat as well as Terrace. Most of it's around, of course, the hospital and the facility and the services. That would go a long way to attracting and putting in a good medical system in advance of LNG coming to town. Last question. It was my understanding that the Mills Memorial Hospital was in the ten-year capital plan. Is that the case? If so, will it still be the case?

In response, the Health Minister offered up an overview as to the approach ahead for the Terrace hospital concept, making note for the Committee that Colleen Nyce had recently appointed as the new permanent chair of the Northern Health Board, having previously served as the interim Chair,  Mr. Dix added that she is from the Terrace area and has been a strong advocate for the Mills Memorial project.

Observing that it's been a long period of time since he's had the opportunity to visit the hospital in Terrace to see the condition of the hospital. He also outlined how he hopes to connect with the new Board Chair, along with Mr. Ross and with others in the Terrace region to look at the hospital together in the near future, though the timeline of that consultation would appear to be dependent on the Legislature calendar.

As for Mr. Ross's request to have the Mills proposal put into a ten year capital plan, Mr. Dix noted that there are still some important questions for the community to review when it comes to the Mills Memorial project, adding he understands the frustration and remains determined to moving the process forward.

You can review the full exchange from the Committee session here, it starts just before the 17:20 mark.

The Committee proceedings are also available for review from the Legislature Video Archive page, Mr. Ross's participation can be found in the Wednesday Health Committee listing.

More notes related to Mr. Ross's efforts at the Legislature can be reviewed here. While a wider overview of North Coast and Northwest legislature items, including the work of North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice is available here.

For more background on Health care in the region see our Health archive page.

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