Questions abound about new hospital, water, old hospital and forests

Bluntly, if Island Health says bed numbers will be 150 or less there seems to be no net gain

Questions abound about new hospital, water, old hospital and forests

Amid all the hoopla and glad-handing about our new Cowichan District Hospital, touted for completion by 2024, we still do not know the number of beds planned for our $500-million facility.

Bluntly, if Island Health says bed numbers will be 150 or less there seems to be no net gain for a new facility that should service the aging demographic of our community. Doctors say CDH’s wards and hallways are already at red-alert numbers of around 150 patients, dangerously clogging corridors and choking rooms in what is supposed to be a healing place. Yet CDH’s staff are working heroes operating with what they have. I believe what we really need is a patient-care wing of a greater number of beds. Our new facility — though more efficient due to better implementation of the latest in technology — without far more beds would fall short of current and future patient needs. What is the logic behind a new hospital that has the same amount of bed space? If there are facts the public hasn’t been told that suggest 150 bed spaces would care for an already underserviced patient load, these facts about the plan should be brought to the public’s attention. Otherwise, you should be able to understand the confusion surrounding the question, and answers should be forthcoming.

Crucial questions also remain about where water for the new CDH’s surrounding urban development will come from. Limits to growth concerning water are currently unknown. Further tapping our precious, over-burdened aquifers, such as that of the Chemainus River, is pure eco-folly. The public has been informed by a very knowledgeable person in Tom Rutherford, that we have reached a dire condition in Cowichan Lake and the necessity of rebuilding the weir. Is this not a reason to complete a water study regarding the ability to service the present population versus any further land development until such a study is conducted? Climate scientists have indicated the weather trend is for further drought. Wouldn’t it be prudent to know how many people we can service with potable water versus sucking our wells dry and then wondering what we should do? We the public need answers to these questions. Decades have gone by when the weir could have been upgraded for less cost, but neglect and denial have led the way instead.

The other question is what will happen on CDH’s current site off Gibbins Road? Have any plans, other than demolition, been considered? Perhaps it could be used for extended care. Are there structural upgrades that could be made to accommodate different uses for our community? I believe these questions and others should be answered in a public forum so citizens/taxpayers are informed about the potential loss of useable infrastructure.

The public should also be made aware of how serious the water issue is. Our current council should be in a position to come forward with specific information, however negative, and future plans that could potentially offset potential problems. We as a community are in a unique place where our own watersheds can make the difference in human habitability of our valley. So far we the people have been uninformed of the use of our community forests to the point where logging has impacted the ability for the forests to retain much-needed run-off as in the past. Only recently we have witnessed citizen outcry about use of our forest lands. When will this council stop allowing deforestation of these pristine mountains and their important watersheds? Stoney Hill and our other mountains are destined by North Cowichan council, for the remainder of 2019, to see logging contracts honoured and falling done to mitigate bug infestations and to control wildfires.

However, logging roads are to be made and flora and fauna will be destroyed, not to mention perfectly good trees harvested at the same time. Even with the caveat that deciduous trees are to remain to help protect the forest floor, the blow-down harvesting decision was made with no public input. If there is liability due to breach of municipal logging contracts, would it not have been better to negotiate a settlement regarding these remaining contracts versus destroying part of our pristine area that could be used for recreation and as an important watershed? Profits over common sense to the point of profits over science seems to fly in the face of the sustainability for the people of Cowichan. Important decisions of this nature should be made public so the public can become somewhat knowledgeable about the issue instead of protesting at our municipal offices and demanding a stoppage to what seems like a misuse of public lands. The public wants answers but still, after protests, there’s been no response by North Cowichan council.

Our current council, when electioneering, indicated transparency, accountability and public input. Where is that transparency and the much-needed public input opportunity regarding this latest decision to cut down the public’s trees?

Bryan Senft

Duncan

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