Recent History – 2002
Feb. 1, 2002, By Mark Nielsen, Daily News Staff
Chetwynd mayor Charlie Lasser is only partially concerned about a rumour that some hospitals in B.C. will be closed as the B.C. Liberals try to contain health care costs.
Lasser said Thursday morning that he heard on the radio that hospital closures are a possibility. But he added that no mention along those lines was made during recent discussions with the head of the Northern Health Authority, Harry Gairns, and the administrator for the northeast, Andrew Neuner.
Maintaining a hospital in Chetwynd is vital, Lasser said, because of the high potential for industrial accidents between the oil patch, forestry and coal mining.
“We’re always concerned, we have been for a number of years,” Lasser said. “But we feel that with the industry in the area and other industry coming in, like the new mines, that it would be very foolhardy for the government to go ahead and put any closure on this hospital.”
He noted that there are some people that already have to make a 40-mile journey to reach the Chetwynd hospital, “and if they have to go another 60 miles to Dawson Creek, it just wouldn’t be feasible”.
“If the government wants us in the northeast to be a powerhouse to bring the province out of its economic slump, they have to provide us with the tools to do it with.”
Health Minister Colin Hansen said Wednesday that he wouldn’t be surprised if there’s not at least one hospital closure in B.C., while other sources have said as many as 10 are on the bubble and that rural hospitals in particular will be targeted.
Hansen would not indicate how many hospitals might be affected.
“I’m in no position right now to tell you whether it’s one, two or how many it’s going to be because we’re waiting for that advice to come from the health authorities,” he said.
Even if hospitals in northern British Columbia are closed, it will be some time yet before their doors are shut.
Northern Health Authority communications director Patty Stewart said administrators are still early in the process of identifying all the costs throughout the authority’s region.
“There were 15 groups that were amalgamated into the authority, so we’re still in the process of getting all the financial information,” she said. “Until we get all the information in, there’s not any plan to close any hospitals.”
Stewart added that a better indication of what’s in store will be known when the B.C. Liberals bring down a budget on February 19.
The party has vowed to maintain the $9.5 billion spent in B.C. on health care each year, but with costs rising by about seven per cent a year, about two-thirds of that due to the collective agreements, Hansen has said that changes must be made.