Premier Christy Clark didn’t say no but she didn’t say yes either when Terrace council pressed its case for a new Mills Memorial Hospital last week in Victoria.
Terrace mayor Carol Leclerc says she remains optimistic that the premier will soon move forward with the plan to replace the aging hospital, which dates back to the late 1950s.
“On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d say an 8, a good 8,” said Leclerc of Clark’s response during a meeting she had with council in her office Sept. 29. The Terrace council was in Victoria for the annual convention of the Union of B.C. Municipalities, also the occasion for local governments across B.C. to lobby senior government officials on issues of importance to them.
“All we did was talk about Mills. Nothing else,” said Leclerc.
Clark had already conceded, during a visit to Terrace on Sept. 12 to introduce former Haisla chief councillor Ellis Ross as her candidate for Skeena in the next provincial election, that a new or, at least, extensively renovated, Mills was needed. This time, in Victoria, she pointed to the province being able to pay down the provincial debt by $1 billion, thus freeing up the ability to finance more capital projects, said Leclerc.
“She left the door open but she also said there would be winners and losers,” Leclerc continued.
“Everyone wants a hospital: 100 Mile House, Fort St. James. There’s a need in Dawson Creek, and Williams Lake,” said Leclerc.
But Leclerc said she and her council made a “passionate” case that the province move ahead with plans for a new Mills.
“We made that case to her in spades,” the mayor continued.
Although the Terrace council did not specifically speak about an offer made by the North West Regional Hospital District to finance a business case study, which would better identify construction options and costs based on the size of the needed structure, Leclerc said the premier was aware of the offer.
That offer on the part of the hospital district, which is headquartered in Terrace and which taxes properties throughout the region to finance major health care projects, has been turned down twice already by provincial health officials.
“She has the letter,” said Leclerc of a recent renewed offer sent in early summer.
That business case study would be the next logical step leading toward an eventual decision to replace Mills Memorial Hospital. By itself, the study would take more than a year.
Mills Memorial is operated by the Northern Health Authority and it has a new Mills on the top of its construction priority list.
The authority has already completed a concept plan, the step immediately preceding a business case study.
It envisions a new Mills on the existing site but turned so that the main entrance faces eastward toward Tetrault.
The Northern Health Authority also wants a new Mills to become a Level III trauma centre with a resulting increase in specialists and services.
It would be the second such designation in northern B.C., after Prince George.
Leclerc said city council’s backing of that plan was also relayed to Clark.