Amidst recent uncertainty of the NDP government’s commitment to replacing the Mills Memorial Hospital, the Northwest Regional Hospital District (NWRHD) was buoyed last week by continued talks with the province.
The directors travelled to Vancouver for the Union of BC Municipalities conference to meet with various provincial ministries, where NWRHD Chair Harry Nyce confirmed on Facebook the NDP government is still following the process for a hospital replacement. “Yes, there have been some delays this summer but the finishing steps of the concept plan are underway,” he wrote.
The public will have to be patient and let the government administration go through its process, Nyce added in a telephone interview. “We wanted to see if the hospital was still on their radar, and, good for us, it is.”
Northern Health spokesperson Eryn Collins said the health authority is currently working with the NWRHD to clarify their understanding of the concept plan. It has been submitted to the government for approval, after which it can then move on to the process of a business plan.
Following former Liberal finance minister Mike de Jong’s announcement last May of a new hospital in the province’s fiscal plan, confidence was shaken when the newly elected NDP government failed to mention the project in its preliminary budget. Skeena MLA Ellis Ross, in his first address to the Legislative Assembly, then critisized the NDP on its priorities—specifically, taking a stance against revenu-generating major projects and ignoring necesities like the hospital replacement.
“I just don’t see the hospital being replaced. Not in this budget,” he said.
With the exisiting facility, built in the late 1950s, Ross also said the Northwest cannot overcome a shortage of healthcare workers. “They come here and they see no future for themselves or their families,” he said, reiterating the urgency for a new facility.
The NWRHD maintains that Terrace’s hospital, one of four in their district, is critical for reducing a service gap in the Northwest, whose resources and industries produce a significant portion of the Province’s wealth; that despite the best safety programs, increased industrialization will see the rise of an already-high number of people dying before they reach a level of care needed to stabilize them.
It is hoped a new hospital would include a Level 3 Trauma Centre, only the second in the north, which would also remove barriers to an air ambulance base.
NWRHD directors brought these concerns to health minister Adrian Dix and other ministers at the UBCM, to which Nyce summed up as “successful” meetings.
“We’re going to send out thank you letters for the time they gave us and, more or less, that’s it for now. But we’re going to carry on,” he said.
At an estimated cost of $362 million, the project needs to move to a business case study to better define the facility’s size, the services it will provide and a more detailed cost outline.