Local politicians keeping mum on Northern Health’s offer to facilitate south-end hospital decision

  • Nov. 21, 2007 3:00 p.m.

Northern Health has offered to bring in a facilitator to help Queen Charlotte and Skidegate reach agreement about where the new hospital will be built, according to spokesperson Mark Karjaluoto. The two communities, located about seven kilometres apart, both want the hospital and have been lobbying hard to get it. At a meeting earlier in the month in Vancouver, representatives from each village made separate presentations to Northern Health, outlining the advantages of each site. Queen Charlotte would like to see the new hospital built where the existing hospital now stands, right in the middle of town. Skidegate has offered an elevated site on the boundary between the two villages, near the ferry landing and across the highway from the new Qay’llnagaay Heritage Centre. “We’ve been having discussions with them for several months,” Mr. Karjaluoto said. “We want them to sit down and work it out between the communities.” Northern Health wants a solution which will meet the health care needs of all south-end residents, he said. Then, last Friday (Nov. 16) Northern Health executives offered to have a facilitator help sort out the location issue. At the moment, Northern Health is waiting to hear back from Queen Charlotte and Skidegate about whether they are prepared to work with a facilitator, Mr. Karjaluoto said. At Queen Charlotte council on Monday evening, Mayor Carol Kulesha told the Observer that she did not have any comments on Northern Health’s offer to facilitate. She also said that she is waiting for the results of an independent engineering study of both sites, commissioned by Northern Health. Ms Kulesha also said she knows as much as anyone else what the process will be from this point forward. Skidegate Band Chief Councillor Willard Wilson was not available for comment as we went to press Tuesday, but he is expected to make a presentation in favour of the Skidegate site to the Northern Health Board when it meets in Vanderhoof today (Nov. 22).Meanwhile, Northern Health chief executive Cathy Ulrich sent a memo out to staff and physicians on November 15, attempting to clarify the hospital site process and responding to an Observer article which quoted representatives from Skidegate and Queen Charlotte. It reads, in part: “There has been media discussion of a ‘third option’ which would allegedly involve splitting health services between Queen Charlotte and Skidegate. We did in fact discuss the possibility of a third option, but the media report of this process is not entirely accurate. “Our goal with the third option is to consult the communities and health professionals in the area. We want to facilitate a discussion which leads to a reasonable solution for the communities and health care providers. “We don’t have a preconceived notion of what services or sites would go to each community; our goal is to find a solution that meets the health needs of both communities, NH staff and physicians. “We don’t yet know when the recommendation of a specific site may roll out. Our approach for the time being is to listen and try to reach a solution. While both villages are eager to have the replace facility in their community, we will need them to work with us and with each other.”