The meeting was held in the Regional District of Bulkley Nechako’s boardroom, which had a seating capacity of approximately 25 people however most of the public were eventually allowed in, filling every available space in the room..
Dr. Charles Jago, Northern Health board chair said to the public that the board is acutely aware of the health care problems Burns Lake is facing and that the y are actively working to change the situation.
“We will not be engaging in public dialogue. There is time for a 10 to 15 minute presentation, but this is not a debate. We will take into consideration your opinions and we will respond to the presenters in due course,” Dr. Jago said.
Lakes District Hospital Advisory Committee members Paula Van Tine, Lori White and Rick Schritt made a presentation to the board regarding the necessity for a new hospital with a full operating room to be built in Burns Lake.
Van Tine said to the board that everyone in Canada, no matter where they live should have equal access to health care.
“You have been chosen to serve on the board, service is an honour and a grave responsibility,” she said.
“The community of Burns Lake has a long history of community support and involvement in our health care, we know what we need, as a community we will work hard to make sure that we get it,” said White.
Van Tine said to the board that local expectant mothers and their loved ones are put in very dangerous situations due to the lack of maternity services in the area.
“They are asked to leave the community two weeks before their due date. There are serious financial and emotional costs to families because of this. There is also costs of fuel, time off work and the need for a reliable car. This is all put on young families …. what if their partner is working in camp, or they don’t have access to a reliable vehicle, how are they supposed to access a safe delivery for their baby,” Van Tine said.
She told knows that one local lady delivered her baby in the back of an ambulance in Endako, while another suffered labour pains all the way to the hospital in Vanderhoof.
“When she arrived at the Vanderhoof hospital she was told that she had come to the hospital too early and wasn’t dilated enough …. she ended up giving birth to her baby in the Tim Horton’s parking lot. People either have to move to a new community or take risks and have unassisted home births,” Van Tine said.
“This is a step backwards, not a step forward,” she added to applause form the public.
Schritt said that less than 10 years of budget cuts and neglect has led to a very broken and sick hospital in Burns Lake. “The most significant cut was the loss of the local administrator,” he said.
“We believe in seizing the day. In unity we can turn this situation around. We envision a new health care system with six to seven practitioners, as well as midwives and physiotherapists for long term stable care,” Van Tine added.
Dr. Jago said, “It was a thoughtful and passionate presentation. We are committed to make the Burns Lake situation better over time. A new hospital in Burns Lake is a major step in the right direction and we are working on that. We will discuss your presentation and get back to you,”
Van Tine said that she was happy with public turn out.
“Now we will wait for action from Northern Health to see if we had any effect,” she added.