BC Premier John Horgan helped break ground for 126 new publicly funded long-term care and hospice beds to be built by Golden Life Management Corp at Cliffe Avenue and 29th Street in Courtenay. The event was unrelated to the regional hospital board meeting  |  George Le Masurier photo

Hospital district board debates advocacy role, doesn’t back off on retaining NI pathology

Nov 7, 2019 | Health Care, News

By George Le Masurier

Should the Comox Strathcona Regional Hospital District advocate for health care services on behalf of its constituents? Or is the district’s role limited to funding 40 percent of selected capital projects proposed by the Vancouver Island Health Authority and levying appropriate taxes?

That question arose at this week’s meeting of the hospital district board during debate about whether to send a follow-up letter to Health Minister Adrian Dix. The minister has not responded to a previous letter that advocated for maintaining onsite clinical pathologist’s services in the North Island.

At the direction of the CSHD board in April, Chair Charlie Cornfield wrote to Dix and VIHA’s board Chair Leah Hollins. In that May 3 letter, Cornfield called removing onsite clinical pathologist’s services “yet another reduction in health care services for communities in the northern region.”

“On behalf of the CSRHD board, I am requesting that Island Health revisit and cancel the contract with VICPCC for laboratory services and … request that Island Health retain and expand, with appropriate funding, pathological laboratory services at the North Island Hospital campuses.”

VIHA did respond to Cornfield’s letter. They sent Dr. David Roberston to address the issue with the board in September.

Director Jim Abram, who represents the Discovery Islands-Mainland Inlets area, made a motion to send a second letter to the health minister to “reconfirm our strong support” for onsite pathology services and a third pathologist at the Campbell River Hospital, and to “fully utilize our capital investment in both hospitals.”

A reworded motion was eventually passed unanimously but not before several directors questioned whether the board should advocate over what they called “operational” issues.

Board Chair Cornfield said he thought “advocacy around operation issues are best dealt with by the public.”

And Campbell River Mayor Andy Adams, also a hospital board director, said he was “uncomfortable” with the board playing an advocacy role. And Comox Valley Area A Director Daniel Arbour said he had “questions around advocacy.”

But Abram and Oyster Bay Director Brenda Leigh tied advocacy in this case to a capital issue.

“I think advocacy is the best use of our hospital board,” Abram said. “We spent $267 million for fully functional laboratories.”

Leigh added that “when you don’t get a letter back in eight months, it’s time to knock on doors.”

In the end, the directors did not back off the advocacy they expressed in their May 3 letter and voted unanimously to send a follow up letter to Health Minister Dix.

The approved motion:

“That the Comox Strathcona Regional Hospital District write to the Premier and Island Health to reconfirm the board’s strong support for maintaining fully functioning local pathology services at the North Island Hospitals in Courtenay and Campbell River in support of optimum health outcomes for the hospital district and to fully utilize the board’s capital investments at both hospitals.”

The provincial Hospital District Act is silent on the issue of advocacy.



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