Northern Health board visit Burns Lake hospital

During the Northern Health board's visit to Burns Lake last week, chief operating officer Cathy Ulrich and the directors took the opportunity to visit the Lakes District Hospital and the Pines.

Local residents filled every available space at a recent Northern Health board meeting

Local residents filled every available space at a recent Northern Health board meeting

During the Northern Health board’s visit to Burns Lake last week, chief operating officer Cathy Ulrich and the directors took the opportunity to visit the Lakes District Hospital and the Pines.

According to Steve Raper, from Northern Health communications the board’s visit to the Lakes District Hospital reaffirmed their position that the replacement project remains number one on the list of capital projects to be completed.

“I can’t speak for the thoughts of the board on the condition of the hospital, it is an older hospital, but I can say that the replacement of the hospital remains the top capital project for Northern Health,” Raper said to Lakes District News.

Northern Health communications officer Eryn Collins said that Cathy Ulrich was not available for an interview with Lakes District News regarding the board meeting as she is currently away. The Village of Queen Charlotte’s hospital replacement is also listed as a priority one project for Northern Health.

In a briefing note presented to the board in their agenda last week, Mike Hoefer, from Northern Health’s capital planning and support services and Peter Kallos, director of development services note that both the Stuart Nechako Regional Hospital District [for the Lakes District Hospital] and the North West Regional Hospital District [for the Village of Queen Charlotte General Hospital] have provided 100 per cent funding to bring both of the projects to tender readiness.

Raper went on to say that that while the planning for the new Lakes District Hospital is still in the early stages, an operating room is not included on the capital plans for the hospital.

“There is certainly space left for a future operating room, but with an operating room you have to have physicians, surgeons and support staff. Safety and quality services are a top priority for Northern Health,” he added.

Raper also said that because of changes to medical technology it is far better to plan for an emergency room when it is needed, rather than plan too far ahead. “Technology changes so rapidly,” he said.

“An operating room is not in the current plans however we will work with the community and the physicians to meet their needs, but number one is always safety and quality,” Raper added.

Raper said the Stuart Nechako Regional Hospital District is the key player in the negotiations with the government with regards to relaxing the rules for a 40 per cent contribution to the project.

“The Stuart Nechako Regional Hospital District is in discussions with the government about this issue. It is a big contribution for a small hospital district,” he said.

Raper went on to say that a total cost for the hospital replacement project has not yet been determined. “We are still working out the total costs. It is still very early in the process,” he said.

Board members were told that a community liaison committee chaired by Village of Burns Lake mayor Bernice Magee has been established and is meeting on a regular basis to discuss issues surrounding the hospital replacement project.

The board also discussed the current medical staffing crisis in Burns Lake and offered reassurances to the community that Northern Health is working hard to avoid any gaps in service.

They said that the current staffing challenges do not in any way impact on the potential for new hospital to be built in Burns Lake.

“There are plans in place for locum coverage to fulfill the needs of the hospital,” Raper said to Lakes District News.

“Northern Health is continuing to work with the [local] physicians. The resignations [as of April 30, 2011] are still in place. The physicians will remain in the community servicing the Burns Lake Medical Clinic. They have just resigned their hospital privileges,” he added.

Raper said Northern Health does remain optimistic that a resolution will be made with the local physicians, however he reaffirmed that locum coverage will be provided for the Lakes District Hospital and patients needs will be met.