Wednesday, February 14, 2018

With Mills Memorial Announcement, North Coast officials will need to remain watchful on local health services

The Friday announcement from Health Minister Adrian Dix that the NDP government has heard the call for a new hospital to replace Mills Memorial is certainly a high achievement for the community effort in the Terrace area, which saw a grass roots campaign take root one year ago to ensure that the voices of that community were heard by the elected officials in Victoria.

Friday's community event in Terrace hosted by Mr. Dix, provided an overview of the timeline for the expansion project which would double the Mills Memorial footprint and make the facility a Level Three trauma centre.

Initial planning for the project is expected to take up to eighteen months, before the actual procurement and construction process will get underway.

Health Minister Adrian Dix came bearing good news for
Terrace on Friday, announcing that the government would
be moving forward with replacement plans for Mills Memorial Hospital

While the announcement from Health Minister Adrian Dix was well received by Terrace officials, five days after the positive news to the east, there has still been no acknowledgement any officials on the North Coast of the Terrace news, nor have there been any words for residents of this region to let them know that the issue of health care and that concerns in this community remain high on their minds.

The topic of health care and an expanded service level for Terrace was not mentioned at last evening's Prince Rupert City Council session, even though that session was less than fifty minutes in length.

Considering how last night's session provided for another rather light work load, one of the council members, if so inclined, could have taken a few minutes to provide some guidance on how the City may wish to approach the issue.

However, it appears that it was an opportunity that was missed, one that could have offered the chance for the city's council members to acknowledge the news from the east and offer up some commentary on how they may plan to keep Prince Rupert's service levels a topic for discussion with the provincial government.

Jennifer Rice, the North Coast MLA and NDP government member, did take some time last week to share the good news from Terrace .

So far though, Ms. Rice has yet to offer up any comments related to the expansion news and service boost that will come from the Terrace plans, nor has she weighed in much on the theme of ensuring that health care on the North Coast is not impacted by any changes for Mills Memorial.

Every once and a while the topic of health care on the North Coast does manage to get the attention of our local and regional officials, though the topic is one that is not a frequent issue.

The prospect of expanded service for Terrace did make for a theme to the provincial election of last May, with both Liberal candidate Herb Pond and NDP MLA Jennifer Rice making note of the Terrace push for expanded services.

A concern over the privatization of health care made for a discussion topic at the All Candidates Forum at the Lester Centre in April, with the three candidates outlining how their parties would address that issue.

The nature of health care in Prince Rupert however did not make it to the list of six questions that City Council created for that election campaign, a survey that focused more on increased revenues for the City and economic issues.

The most recent discussion on health issues for City Council came one year ago, when Councillor Barry Cunningham took note of the efforts in Terrace to get the attention of the provincial government when it came to their desire for a new facility.

At the February 8, 2017 council session, Councillor Cunningham noted that while in support of improved health facilities for Terrace, he also offered up a bit of caution and the need for vigilance when it comes to the potential for an impact on service in this community.

The prospect of an expanded footprint in Terrace, caught the attention of Kitimat Council back in December, when Kitimat Mayor Phil Germuth noted that his community should stand with  communities like Prince Rupert and Smithers, to ensure that no current health service levels are diminished or service is lost.

What impact, if any that the introduction of expanded health care in Terrace
will have on Prince Rupert Regional Hospital should be a focus
for local politicians on the North Coast

One reason to ensure that Prince Rupert not only retains current service levels at Prince Rupert Regional Hospital but in fact expands on them, has never been more clear than over the last three weeks, as road conditions between Terrace and the North Coast have been challenging when open, impossible when closed as they have been for three separate avalanche warnings so far this winter.

Beyond that very obvious safety issue, the need to hold to current service and build on it at the Prince Rupert hospital should be a priority for City Council and our MLA, particularly if there is hope for continued economic expansion and expanded industrial growth.

The introduction of additional services as will come with a Level Three trauma centre, could make locating to Terrace more attractive for prospective doctors, nurses and medical personnel.

It also could  have an impact on hiring for the North Coast region, as the Terrace facility will be able to offer additional incentives and medical services for health professionals that the Prince Rupert Regional Hospital may not be able to match.

While no one would begrudge those in Terrace at their success, those of us at the far end of Highway 16 will have to be watchful that our messages and requirements don't fall through any cracks as the province puts an expanded focus on Terrace and what seems to be the first strains of a centralization process for health care.

For that too happen our local officials will need to be become much more engaged in that debate with their provincial counterparts.

For more notes on health care in the Northwest see our archive page here.

Items on interest on the Legislature can be reviewed here, while City Council discussion topics are examined through our Council Archive page.

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