The crisis of staffing at Stewart's Hospital is becoming a hotter political issue, as the MLA for the North Coast Gary Coons continues to press the Health Minister and Premier on the state of health care in rural BC.
Suggesting that both are out of touch with the real pain being suffered in Northern Communities, Coons urged the Health Minister to address the needs of Stewart and other rural areas which have been sideswiped by the exodus of health professionals.
The thoughts of the North Coast MLA were found in Monday's Daily News.
MLA lays blame on Abbott over MD shortages
By George T. Baker
The Daily News
Monday, December 01, 2008
North Coast MLA Gary Coons attacked B.C.'s health minister George Abbott Thursday, taking a verbal swing at the minister for cutting overnight bed service in Stewart's hospital and not finding adequate answers for staff shortages.
Coons said the whole mess can be laid at the feet of Abbott.
"The Health Minister needs to wake up and realize that his policies are destroying communities and putting lives at risk," said Coons. "The Campbell government is out of touch with rural British Columbia. They need to meet their own Provincial Standards of Accessibility."
It was announced last week that Stewart is left with one part-time doctor and without anyone to operate the laboratory and x-ray services for the hospital, leaving the small mining community four hours from the nearest emergency services.
Calls to Abbott from the Daily News were not returned by deadline, but the Daily News is hoping for comments from the minister for Tuesday's paper.
According to Coons, more than 300 people have written directly to Abbott and Premier Gordon Campbell letting them both know about the situation in Stewart.
So far, the responsibility to fix the problem has fallen on Northern Health, the health organization in charge of services in the provinces' north.
Currently, Northern Health says it is working with the community to find a solution.
Coons claimed that northern economic development is not possible without northern medical infrastructure, something that has been echoed by mine operators Galore Creek Mining Corporation, Nova Gold Resources Inc. and potential miners Glacier Aggregates Inc. Leaders from all three companies have each written to Abbott to tell the province how difficult work would be in the north without an appropriate medical service nearby.
Glacier Aggregates is well into its environmental assessment process to construct and operate an aggregate processing and shipping facility at the mouth of the Bear River.
President Kenneth Watson wrote to Abbott saying he was "vitally concerned that a full emergency department be maintained at Stewart" and he strongly urged Abbott "to endeavour to find a way to maintain and restore the facility and a full emergency department."