Over 1,800 local signatures made their way into the legislature last week.
Nechako Lakes MLA John Rustad presented the petition to the 85 MLA’s of the Legislative Assembly of B.C. and said it was well received.
He said to Lakes District News that he had already given the petition to the Minister of Finance, Kevin Falcon and the Minister of Health, Michael de Jong just after the Burns Lake public health forum in March this year, but presenting it to the Legislature made it official.
“They were impressed that there were 1,800 names on the petition from a community of that size,” Rustad said.
“Presenting the petition helps to raise the level of awareness of the need for a new hospital in Burns Lake and the request for an operating room.”
Rustad said that Northern Health are now finishing up the design stages of the plans for the replacement facility and once done they will be submitted to the ministry for approval, then passed on to the treasury board for final approval.
“The treasury board reviews all projects and all dollars spent,” Rustad said.
He went on to say that he hopes Northern Health will have the plans finalized by the beginning of June in order to be on time for submission to the treasury board meeting in July.
“There are usually no treasury board meetings in August so if the plans are submitted later in July they will then go to the September board meeting,” Rustad said.
“It has to go through the process, but I would like to make the announcement [of the approval for a new hospital] this fall,” he added.
“The Lakes District Hospital replacement is identified as the number one need by Northern Health and the community are really pushing for approval.”
Lakes District News asked Rustad if he thinks that the treasury board will approve the project, to which he responded, “There are some challenges with capital budgets this year and the government is trying to keep spending controlled.”
He also said that there are 85 ridings in B.C. and all of them have requests for funding.
He said out of the 85 ridings, there are 20 hospital projects requesting funding. The projects mostly consisting of upgrades and renovations.
“There are not too many hospital replacement projects. In my riding, Fort St. James is also next in line for a hospital replacement, this also needs to be thought about.”
He added however, that the former Minster of Health, Falcon is now the Minister of Finance which is in Burns Lake’s favour.
“He had previously advocated for the new hospital and is well aware of the need,” Rustad added.