The results are in.
Results from a survey conducted at the Health Care forum between the community and Northern Health on March 15 this year, were presented to the Village of Burns Lake’s mayor and council last week.
The meeting sparked a debate between members of the community and Northern Health representatives about the immediate need for a fully functional operating room to be included in the proposed replacement hospital plans.
Many local residents stressed the importance of an operating room, while Michael McMillan, chief operating officer of Northern Health stood steadfast in the decision to omit a fully functioning operating room in the plans instead, offering space in the new hospital for the inclusion of the service sometime in the future.
According to the survey results presented to council, the majority of the meeting attendees had the operating room first and foremost on their minds. They also felt that the information that was presented at the community meeting did not fully answer their specific questions and concerns.
The comments received spanned eight pages and mainly centered on the need for an operating room and for increased physician coverage.
“We demand an operating room,” wrote one respondent, another wrote, “I would like to see a fully functioning operating room, doctors don’t just go to school to [learn] how to write prescriptions.”
Respondents also indicated they would like to see more information from Northern Health regarding plans for services to be included at the replacement hospital.
While some community members directed their frustration towards Northern Health and the government, others indicated their frustrations towards local physicians.
One respondent wrote, “Physicians control the delivery of health care primary services, why were they not represented on the panel to defend the mess they have made of health care in Burns Lake?”
Although Dr. Alan Hill, chief of staff did attend the Health Care Forum and spoke briefly at the end of the meeting, he was not part of the official panel.
More survey responses were received as follows:
• Northern Health seem to be close minded when it comes to the concerns of the [community] wanting an operating room. It does mean life or death to some situations.
• The quality of health services in the Lakes District is rapidly deteriorating. Northern Health is no asset to this problem. This so called hospital has become a first aid station. An operating room is an absolute must.
• The answers of most of the questions were unacceptable. What is the real reason doctors won’t come to Burns Lake? I don’t believe there is a shortage of doctors and I don’t believe it is a shortage of money. Why do we have a private business as our doctors office? Is this normal? …… Northern Health does not seem to care about our needs here.
• I don’t think Northern Health understands our community concerns and does not think we are smart enough to know they are not going to build our hospital as needed. People who do not live in the community do not see the daily problems with travel in the North.
• I don’t think Northern Health was swayed by our concerns. They should have had locums long before now, especially in the operating room. For years Smithers has had locums do two week rotations to cover their operating room.
• Why does it take 12 doctors to have an operating room. I don’t think Northern Health was listening. His [McMillan’s] mind was already made up. He never answered any questions.
The full survey results are set to be forwarded to Northern Health, Nechako Lakes MLA John Rustad and Skeena MP Nathan Cullen.