South end hospital site becoming controversial

  • Aug. 29, 2007 10:00 a.m.

By Charlotte Tarver–The Skidegate Band Council wants the new south-end hospital built in Skidegate and plans to make a presentation to the Northern Health board when it meets in three weeks. “Right now, we are putting together a formal presentation on health services and programs,” Chief Councillor Willard Wilson told the Observer Tuesday, “and we will be talking about the hospital site…where that site will be is part of the presentation.” The presentation is no surprise, since Queen Charlotte recently has been lobbying behind the scenes to ensure the hospital is built in that community-council discussed the issue with Minister of Health George Abbott when he was here in July¬-and Skidegate has been doing the same. In fact, when MP Nathan Cullen was on the islands recently, he urged community reps not to “overfocus on the where” of the new facility, but to concentrate on what kind of facility they want to have (see separate story, page 4). At an August 20 meeting with Northern Health, the hospital site was discussed by members of the Skidegate Band Council and Queen Charlotte Village Council. The meeting, called by Northern Health, was to begin the planning process for the hospital. “One of the topics of discussion was around the location of a future hospital,” said Roweena Holoien, Chief Operating Officer of Northern Health. “However, at this time, we are going to initiate planning around health care programs and services, which is a very important part of this process. The hospital site selection is just one piece,” she said. The next step for Northern Health is to meet with the south end communities over the next few months to get their input. “The planning will include the needs of Sandspit, Tlell, of all the south end communities. It’s not so much where people reside, but who will access the services. We will look at historical use of the services as well as the demographics of the population,” she said. “We will meet with hospital staff, health care managers and stakeholders such as Queen Charlotte Council and Skidegate Band Council around what services we are currently delivering and what we consider to be our future needs”, Ms Holoien said. “We were asked to each put forth what is best for health care for the south end communities,” Queen Charlotte Mayor Carol Kulesha said about the meeting, “We all agreed to move forward on looking at the services and programs needed.” To help in the planning, a consultant has been hired by Northern Health. The consultants will also be providing input and options to the NH board. “A consultant group is tendered and engaged in functional planning so they will be looking at a follow up to the community systems planning…like how much space is required for a certain program,” said Ms Holoien. “We (Northern Health) will be assessing (the hospital site) globally – part of this is access to services and convenience for service delivery,” said Ms Holoien, “Those are priority features as well as what amenities there are to each site such as water, power, sewage, etc., that is part of the consultants’ work.” “This kind of project can take up to five years,” she said. “I think that everyone acknowledges that services will dictate what the design is. Things like how much square footage will be needed for each service, what kind of equipment space, what are the staff needs.” Once all the options for the site are put forth, the Northern Health Board will make a recommendation to the Province as to where the hospital will be. “The Province will decide,” said Ms Holoien.