New hospital: traction, still no action

Fort St. James Primary Care Society are strongly advocating for the capital project priority

Stuart Lake Hospital. Photo Northern Health

On June 16 John Rustad, called a meeting of the Fort St. James Primary Care Society. During the election at the All Candidates Meeting in Fort St. James, John committed to making the new hospital for Fort St James his “capital project priority”.

The Fort St. James Primary Care Society met with MLA, John Rustad on June 16, to look ways to advance the Fort St. James hospital project. Ann McCormick, Chair of the PCS stated, “This was an exciting meeting as it was MLA, John Rustad that called the meeting. A new hospital has long been discussed in our community”.

Stuart Lake Hospital is documented for years to be physically and functionally obsolete and should be replaced to meet the needs of the community. The structure was only meant to be temporary, the facility conditions are poor, there is significant increased community needs and safety concerns with the building. There is also a concern that it remains difficult attracting doctors and nurses to the community with such an antiquated hospital.

The Northern Health Board &Regional Hospital District Planning Session, October 17, 2016, listed the Fort St. James hospital project as a priority investment of $75 million.

On January 30 Mayor Rob MacDougal, Regional District Rep Tom Greenaway, Council Member Fred Sam of Nak’azdli Whut’en and First Nations Health representatives joined John Rustad on a tour of the Stuart Lake Hospital and all agreed that there were patient care limitations because of the age and size of the building.

The community’s soft approach letter writing campaign has generated some awareness at the Ministry of Health level but no firm commitment of time frame has been awarded.

During this spring’s All Candidates Forum, NDP candidate Anne Sam, NDP and Liberal candidate for re-election John Rustad, both commented that a new hospital was a priority for Fort St. James. Mr Rustad went as far to say that if he was re-elected the hospital would be “his capital project priority”.

A new facility would eliminate the high operating and maintenance costs and address the structural issues that come with an older modular facility. There is extensive data supporting the high use of the facility and the costs. An inadequate hospital seriously compromises economic development efforts.

The Primary Care Society along with our MLA John Rustad are looking to map out an aggressive campaign that can get approval and set some dates by the Ministry of Health. We believe that a new hospital will be more cost effective, will provide additional opportunities to build programs for wellness and supports in the community, support sustainable retention and give an opportunity for long range planning.

How can you help? The Fort St. James Primary Care Society is asking that residents continue to write letters to our MLA stating the urgent need and support for the new hospital project. “Now that we have all the stakeholders at the table, we want more than just traction we want action” said Ann McCormick.