‘It’s not a real hospital’: Hope’s hospital the latest to receive local criticism
Fraser Health officials say that while they are looking at improving services and resources at smaller sites, providing care in larger regional hospitals can improve safety.
A Hope-area politician has leveled a damning indictment of his local hospital and its lack of services.
“It’s not a real hospital,” FVRD director Denis Adamson told Fraser Health CEO Victoria Lee at a recent meeting, pointing to the lack of births at Fraser Canyon Hospital. Adamson’s words are the latest complaint about the two smallest hospitals in the valley, with Mission officials also calling for improvements at the facility in that city.
But Fraser Health officials say that while they are looking at improving services and resources at the smaller sites, providing care in larger regional hospitals can improve safety.
A referral hospital?
In late April, Lee and colleagues spoke to Adamson and fellow directors of the Fraser Valley Regional Hospital District, which raises money through taxes for area health care facilities.
Adamson asked Lee how many of the 15,680 babies born in Fraser Health last year were delivered at Fraser Canyon Hospital in Hope. When Lee said she didn’t have that figure, Adamson pointed out that the number was zero, and had been for some time because Chilliwack is the nearest hospital where babies are delivered. (Fraser Canyon has 10 in-patient acute care beds.)
“We haven’t had a baby delivered there in 20-something years,” he said. “It’s not a real hospital. Everything goes away from there. It’s more a place you go and get transferred from.”
Adamson said more was needed to get the hospital to the point where it adequately served locals.
“We feel we should just be able to go there and get looked after,” he said. He added that boosting services in Hope could help take pressure off other regional hospitals.
(Statistics show that residents of Hope and the Fraser Canyon (to Boston Bar) and surrounding areas gave birth to 76 babies in 2021. Agassiz/Harrison residents welcomed 114 babies. By comparison, about 1,100 babies were born to Chilliwack residents last year.)
Lee said the Fraser Health Authority looks at the services that can be provided locally, and which are best shared regionally. Delivering babies in regional hubs increases safety, she suggested.
“Part of the human health resource challenge is that we have specialists and a number of people who are trained in specific areas,” Lee said. She said more complications during birth—partly because the age of pregnant patients has risen—has increased the importance of having a variety of medical specialists on hand during childbirth. The recruitment of pediatricians is another challenge.
“We focus on providing high quality care, and that might sometimes mean that service is not in every community,” Lee said. “But what’s very important is that we network to ensure those services are accessible as much as possible.”
Adamson’s comments were the latest concerns raised about the regionalization of health care in the Fraser Health region. Mission residents have formed a new group, Mission All Together for Health Care (MATH) to lobby for more services in that community. Since the opening of Abbotsford Regional Hospital, that facility has hosted many services for Mission residents MATH’s fundraising and advocacy efforts have led Fraser Health to commit to adding a CT Scanner to Mission Memorial Hospital.
In Chilliwack, residents expressed concern about the temporary closure of that city’s maternity ward in 2019. Last year, Coun. Jason Lum called for the hospital to receive a larger share of capital investments. (It is set to receive considerably more in 2022.)
Last year’s storms also highlighted the difficulty in providing regional care during an emergency and highlighted the role Fraser Canyon Hospital is asked to play during events affecting travel on the Coquihalla Highway. The Coquihalla River’s high waters began to erode land immediately next to the site, prompting emergency work to stop it from sweeping away the hospital’s parking lot. The landslides stranded many in Hope, including some injured during landslides, and doctors at the hospital said they lacked the necessary equipment to treat all those who needed care.
The hospital’s helipad was also revealed to be unusable (see our story in the Agenda section of Thursday’s newsletter) once winds died down and made flying possible.