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No solutions for Burns Lake yet after UBCM discussions

Topics include connectivity, medevac and mental health
Burns Lake Mayor Chris Beach was the only Village of Burns Lake representative attending last year’s UBCM convention, which allows local governments to bring topics of interest to the table with individual ministries. (Lakes District News file photo)

Lakes District News has asked Burns Lake Mayor Chris Beach what responses he has received from the provincial government since the Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) convention last September.

Beach was the only Village of Burns Lake representative attending the event, which allows local governments to bring topics of interest to the table with individual ministries.

One of the topics discussed during event was the issue of patient transfers (medevac) sometimes only being a one-way trip for northern residents. According to B.C. Emergency Health Services, if the health care team determines that a patient does not require paramedic care to return home, the patient will be responsible for arranging his or her own return transportation.

“Northern Health discussed the options available through the Northern Health Connections service, as well as the B.C. Ambulance Service’s (BCAC) low-acuity bus that travels between Prince George and Burns Lake during our meeting,” said Beach.

With Northern Health Connections, a bus trip from Vancouver to Prince George takes almost 12 hours, and Northern Health does not offer a connection to Burns Lake on the same day. The BCAC’s low-acuity bus service offers another option for moving low-risk patients between Prince George, Burns Lake, and points in between.

“Further to this, Northern Health will be providing additional information to the social work departments at the quaternary care centres in Vancouver regarding the Village of Burns Lake’s concerns,” added Beach.

Mental health and substance use were also topics at UBCM.

Beach said Aaron Bond, director of specialized services for Northern Health, would be discussing these issues further with the village in the near future. However, a meeting still hasn’t been set up.

With regard to connectivity issues, Beach says the village has received a response from the Ministry of Citizen’s Services.

The ministry noted that the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission is expected to announce a fund to help expand connectivity in the near future. Minister Jinny Sims told the village that his ministry will be working hard to access as much of the new federal funding as possible to improve access in communities across our province.

In addition, the ministry informed the village that a program called Connecting British Columbia is in place to assist rural communities across the province to increase access to high-speed internet. The multi-year grant program, administered on behalf of the province by Northern Development Initiative Trust, helps to pay for infrastructure required to deliver high-speed Internet connectivity to homes and businesses in rural locations throughout B.C.

Furthermore, Beach says the ministry encouraged the village and the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako to continue working together to improve connectivity in the area.

There have been no further discussions or meetings with regard to issues brought forward by the village at UBCM.