Hospital location decision coming next month

  • Oct. 10, 2007 11:00 a.m.

by Alex Rinfret–The Northern Health board will likely make a decision about where to build the replacement south-end hospital after hearing a presentation from the Skidegate Band Council next month, says Northern Health’s chief operating office for the northwest, Rowena Holoien. “It’s been a very comprehensive, complicated process,” Ms Holoien said. “We are hopeful that we will have a response from the board in November.” The board is scheduled to meet Nov. 22 in Vanderhoof. Board members will hear a presentation from Skidegate at some point during the public meeting. Ms Holoien said Northern Health is following a policy of wide consultation, with the board having listened to a presentation from Queen Charlotte council in July about the hospital site. The future location of the hospital has been controversial, with both Queen Charlotte and Skidegate lobbying to have it built in their community. Queen Charlotte has had a hospital since 1908, with the existing hospital building opening its doors in 1955. The varying viewpoints came as no surprise to Northern Health, Ms Holoien said, which is well aware of south-end site squabbles dating back to at least the early 1990s. After years of arguments over the site, the provincial government at one point was ready to build a replacement hospital near Balance Rock, just north of Skidegate, but that project was cancelled about 10 years ago. Skidegate is now putting forward a site on the border between the two communities, just east of the ferry landing and close to the new Haida Heritage Centre at Qay’llnagaay. Chief councillor Willard Wilson was reluctant to say more about Skidegate’s proposal, saying that not all the details have been worked out yet. Skidegate will tell the public more about its vision next month as it prepares its presentation for Northern Health, he said. “We’ll be very happy to let you know when we’re ready to release it to the public,” Mr. Wilson said. “I don’t want to give a partial story.” Mr. Wilson said he was also hesitant to say more because he does not want to engage in a public quarrel with Queen Charlotte. “We don’t want to fight with our neighbours, we want to get along with our neighbours,” he said. “We want to be fair, and we want to get along.” The band council did distribute a one-page news bulletin to Skidegate residents last week, saying that it will lobby hard to get the hospital and outlining the proposed site. Meanwhile, Northern Health has completed master planning for the new facility and has hired a consulting group to prepare a report on what programs could use the building, and how much space they will need now and in the future. The report will include recommendations on things like whether the medical clinic – currently located in a separate building close to the hospital – should be housed in the new facility, Ms Holoien said. The consultants have been provided with information about both of the proposed sites, and their report should be done by early spring, she said. There has been confusion about who will ultimately make the decision about where the new hospital will be built. Ms Holoien said the Northern Health board will decide, although the decision must also be agreed to by the Ministry of Health and the Northwest Regional Hospital Board, the two organizations which are providing the money for the project. As well as listening to the two villages, Northern Health has been consulting with other stakeholders, such as the physicians and the people who work in the hospital every day. The board will provide a summary in November of the consultations which have taken place, Ms Holoien said.