Premier John Horgan made a campaign stop with Cowichan Valley NDP candidate Rob Douglas on the weekend. (Submitted)

Furstenau accuses Horgan of politicizing new Cowichan hospital as premier makes Valley campaign stop

Premier suggests that new facility hinges on re-election of NDP government

Cowichan Valley MLA and B.C. Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau accused Premier John Horgan of politicizing the Cowichan Valley’s new hospital during a campaign stop on the weekend.

Horgan promised that a re-elected NDP government would continue to move toward building the new hospital when he visited the riding with NDP candidate Rob Douglas on Sunday. Furstenau, who was a member of the Cowichan Valley Regional Hospital District Board that collected funds for the project when she served as an area director, was disappointed that Horgan suggested the hospital hinged on the election results.

“I was informed by [Health Minister Adrian Dix] several weeks before the election was called that the business case had been approved and that it was moving forward,” Furstenau said. “It is disappointing, although perhaps not surprising, to hear Mr. Horgan try to instil fear in people about a project that has been moving forward since the government announcement in 2018.

“This was a community-driven process that began several years ago. The hospital is a success of so many hardworking people in Cowichan who have come together to push this project forward.

“We simply don’t have time for this kind of politics in B.C. Communities are working hard to come up with tangible solutions to the challenges we face. Between COVID-19, the affordability crisis, the overdose crisis and the climate crisis, we have to work together to get things done. All parties need to recognize that communities across B.C. should be able to count on the government to make decisions based on ensuring that every person in B.C. has access to needed services and infrastructure.”

The Cowichan Valley has been pushing for a new hospital for many years, and the CVRHD purchased 22 acres of land on Bell McKinnon Road in 2016 where the new facility will be built. Horgan announced in July 2018 that the hospital would be built and ready for service by 2024. The business case was submitted last year, and construction is expected to begin next year.

The new hospital will be almost three times the size of the current one, which opened in 1967, with room to incorporate new technology.

“People in this region have waited a long time for the hospital they deserve, and under our plan that wait will soon be over,” Horgan said on Sunday. “We have approved a business plan and are on track to have a brand new, state-of-the-art facility open in the next few years — delivering quality health care to people in their own backyard.”

The premier cautioned that health care projects like the new hospital could be at risk under the BC Liberal Party’s plan to hand $3 billion in tax cuts to the wealthy and big corporations.

“The only way to pay for Mr. Wilkinson’s massive giveaways would be to cut health care or bring back medical services premiums — or some combination of both,” said Horgan. “In our first term, we eliminated expensive MSP fees on families while investing in new hospitals and care centres. I’m glad we’ve made progress, but I know there’s much more to do.”

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