FHA makes up with Fraser Valley regional hospital directors

A $1.2 million funding request by the FHA appears back on track after meetings with the Fraser Valley Regional Hospital District.

A $1.2 million funding request by the Fraser Health Authority appears back on track after meetings with the Fraser Valley Regional Hospital District.

“There’s now vastly improved communications,” John Smith, the hospital district’s vice chairman, said Monday. “They certainly got the message, and I have no doubt they will be providing us with all the answers we need.”

Smith had earlier accused the FHA of treating the hospital district as a “cash cow” a treatment that seemed to reach a breaking point in February when a $1.2 million funding request arrived at the FVRHD board.

But hospital board director voted to table the request until FHA president Nigel Murray agreed to meet with the board to discuss the “serious communication breakdown.”

Murray and FHA financial systems director Brenda Ligett met behind closed doors with FVRHD directors at the April 24 board meeting.

Hospital board chairman Chuck Stam later told The Progress he recognized when he became chairman in December that the two organizations had not been communicating their “vision” of the relationship.

Stam said after meeting with FVRHD staff it was decided that “we’re not doing anything until we get these two visions on track.”

The hospital district contributes a share of the capital costs of equipment and facilities needed by hospitals in the Fraser Valley region, such as the $35 million cost of expanding the emergency room at Chilliwack General Hospital.

But it appears the FHA has not been treating the hospital district as a full partner in delivering health services in the Fraser Valley.

“We needed meaningful input into their decisions before the fact,” Smith said. “We needed to be heard and treated as a partner.”

He said the relationship had been deteriorating for a number of years and “was on rocky ground, through no fault of ours.”

But after several meetings with Murray, Smith praised the chairman’s “we’re-going-to-fix-it” attitude.

“He demonstrated good faith, and seems to genuinely and sincerely want to address the serious communication breakdown,” Smith said.

The hospital board will vote on the $1.2 million funding request at a later meeting.

The request is 40 per cent of the FHA’s total $2.9 million in capital costs for the region.

Those needs include an estimated $1.3 million to remedy “extensive envelope failures” that have “compromised the safety of the workplace environment” at Parkholm Lodge where a new $2.7-million, 20-bed mental health unit was opened by provincial and FHA officials last October.

“These failures are due to systemic leaking problems and the existence of mold,” Ligett said in a letter to the FVRHD board.

The funding request also includes an estimated $110,000 to replace an “obsolete and outdated” call system that connects patients to nurses at Chilliwack General Hospital.

The existing system is 18 years old and replacement parts are no longer available, Ligett said in the letter.

The list of equipment needs also included a request for $350,000 to complete the third phase of electrical system upgrades at Mission Memorial Hospital, and a total $866,350 for equipment projects under $100,000.

rfreeman@theprogress.com

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