LOCAL efforts to advance the goal of a new Mills Memorial Hospital have hit a major snag.
And that comes in the form of a letter from health minister Terry Lake indicating he isn’t prepared to pay for a detailed study to outline what a new Mills might look like and what would be involved in making that happen.
The letter is in response to one sent him by the Kitimat-Stikine Regional Hospital District, the regional taxation body which helps finance health care projects and equipment, urging him to approve such a study.
“While it is true that a substantial amount of lead time is required to build or redevelop a hospital, and that having a business plan completed in advance could reduce that lead time, it would not be prudent to invest significant resources in detailed planning prior to confirming funding sources for a major capital project,” Lake wrote.
As it is, the Northern Health Authority, which provides and administrates health services across the north, sent a Mills replacement concept plan to the health ministry two years ago and has been waiting since for approval to move to the next stage which is the business case study.
Lake acknowledged that the north is a major contributor to the northern economy, adding that the provincial government “continues to make significant capital investments in the north.”
And he said the health ministry “is required to manage many health capital priorities across the province within available funding to ensure we are spending taxpayer dollars in the best way possible.”
Opened in 1961, the current Mills Memorial building, although renovated over the years and with various other improvements, is considered inadequate.
Lake’s letter comes as Terrace city council prepares its own presentation to lobby him and other cabinet ministers during a trip to Victoria next month for the annual Union of B.C. Municipalities convention.
Council met Aug. 10 to consider its strategy in how to convince the government to move the Mills project to the business development phase.
Terrace mayor Carol Leclerc said she wasn’t disappointed Lake had already turned down council’s request in advance of next month’s meeting.
“I would rather say we have to stay focussed,” said Leclerc.
She said the letter won’t dissuade her council from continuing to press the point a new Mills is needed.
“It’s our priority and it’s a priority for Northern Health,” said Leclerc.