Wednesday, March 22, 2023

City Council offers support for Smithers hospital plans, but concerns raised over progress for a new Hospital for Prince Rupert

As often seems the case of late whenever a discussion about Northern Health comes up, the belief that Prince Rupert is falling through the cracks with the Health Authority once again made for some of the narrative to discussion at Prince Rupert City Council.

This time coming as part of a discussion on whether the City of Prince Rupert should offer a letter of support for plans for a new hospital in the Bulkley Valley at Smithers.

The topic was one of two items that had been flagged by Mayor Pond for some review from the Consent Agenda for the night.  

The request for a letter of support is available for examination from that Agenda package on page 22.

The follow up discussion providing for a few concerns from Prince Rupert Council members when it came to how their support may impact on any plans for a new hospital in Prince Rupert.

Councillor Cunningham led off the discussion on that theme, expressing his concerns over the prospect of a letter of support for the Bulkley Valley hospital, noting how it's already scheduled for replacement. 

From that he observed as to how the replacement for Prince Rupert Regional Hospital has now been dropped to fourth on the priority list for Northern Health. 

"I've already noticed that the replacement for Prince Rupert Regional Hospital was supposed to be the next one after Bulkley Valley and it's now been bumped down to fourth. Which means we won't be getting a new hospital until 2035, 2040. 

I've already asked that that be put on the NCLGA agenda with Northern Health, because they're replacing the hospital in Terrace, as we all know you see it every time you turn.

Now they're going to go to Smithers and replace a hospital there, the next place they want to replace is Hazelton, in between the two hospitals that are being replaced.

And they're ignoring the western side, our Prince Rupert Regional Hospital which services the whole coast and everything. 

So my fight with Northern Health is to get moved back to third and not bumped down to fourth with capital planning and everything. 

To plan a hospital from the day you start it to when it opens the doors is ten to fifteens years ... our hospital meets all the criteria of being replaced" 

Councillor Adey noted of the list that Mr. Cunningham observed towards and how that information needed to be brought out. 

To the theme of discussion, he observed that by moving things forward the City could thus move the Prince Rupert Hospital goals further up as well.

Councillor Teri Forster observed how there were two issues, one support for a new hospital in other communities while still speaking to the need for one in Prince Rupert. Noting how both communities need a new hospital and how all communities need to work together on the issue.

"I think we should support having a hospital somewhere else,  but that doesn't mean that we don't support us having one too, the two issues are not tied.

And  I really feel quite strongly that it's not a matter of us versus them and if we tie the two issues together that's how it sounds. 

We both need a new hospital and I would be reluctant to send a message that we wouldn't support them getting a hospital cause we might not.

Everyone needs a new hospital and everyone needs to work together across the north ... I support both writing a letter to get Smithers a new hospital because they desperately need it, but so do we, so then also advocating quite strongly for Prince Rupert to have one through the Hospital Board to Northern Health"

Councillor Cunningham returned to the process currently underway, as to how Smithers planning is already in place and writing a letter seems to him irrelevant, noting of further concerns with Northern Health that when it comes to how the highway ends in Terrace.

He observed of rumours he's heard related to how active recruitment of staff in Prince Rupert is taking place by Mills Memorial and how there is a need for Prince Rupert to continue to advocate for its hospital which he views as one that is being diminished. 

"This is the battle I've been fighting for four or five years now, we're getting diminished services every time up at our hospital. 

I've now heard that they're actively recruiting our staff at our hospital for Mills Memorial  

I haven't got proof of it, I've just heard people say did you hear this and that ...

Our hospital is being diminished"

Councillor Niesh had no issue with writing a letter of support for the Smithers facility, but also urged for more advocacy towards putting Prince Rupert back into its placement as the next one to be built after Smithers.

Councillor Adey also noted of the issue of advocacy for Prince Rupert and what role Council could play in moving that along. 

"I think the other issue, which I agree is a separate issue in terms of advocacy, Im sure there is nobody in the room that disagrees that we need to find ways to advocate strongly that Prince Rupert's needs get met as soon as possible.

And as a separate subject, maybe then we need to put some thought into how, what role Council can play in moving that along. I see the request from Smithers as just tying to speed things up and that's a good thing.

But I would be equally enthusiastic about finding ways to raise the profile of Prime Rupert's needs and move that issue along as well"

With that Council voted in favour of the amendment and the main recommendation which was carried.

You can review the conversation from the City's Video archive starting at the 16 minute mark.

More notes on Monday's Council Session can be reviewed through our Council Timeline.

A review of some of the past issues related to the Prince Rupert Hospital can be explored here.

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