Who dropped the ball with the Ashcroft hospital?

Reader and former Councillor, Ida Makaro wants to know why the Ashcroft hospital missed out on $200,000 in funding.

Re: “Rural Hospitals Receive Added Funding” (Journal Feb. 14, 2012)

Dear Editor

It’s almost a month since we read the story in the Journal that the Ashcroft Hospital was not among the 36 benefitting hospitals named by the government to receive financial assistance up to $200,000 a year for “rural, fee-for-service physicians who commit to ensure reliable public access to emergency services is maintained at their local hospital.”

Williams Lake, 100 Mile, Lillooet and Clearwater were among the 36 rural communities of the 52 who are eligible to receive the funding.

This story shocked us because those of us who live here know our hospital is in dire need of such funding. Our Emergency Services leave so much to be desired and at no time was it brought realistically home than it was this past holiday season.

I was personally concerned when once again, I noticed that the press release said: “In a letter to the Ashcroft Council from Health Minister Michael DeJong, dated Dec. 14, the Minister advised that Physicians and Health Authorities are required to collaboratively develop a plan in order for funding to be provided.”

I wondered, did Cache Creek and Clinton Councils also get this notification?  If so, who was supposed to collaborate and who dropped the ball?

I sent an email to all three mayors (Ashcroft, Cache Creek, Clinton and to MLA Donna Barnett, Parliamentary Secretary for Rural Communities) and to the CAOs asking them to forward my email to all councillors with the statement and question: Our citizens desperately need an explanation. Since this hospital is a District Hospital, did the Councils of the Villages of Cache Creek and Clinton also receive this information? Did anyone apply for the funding? Does our ER situation not need to be taken seriously by someone? Did anyone contact Donna Barnett and ask for her assistance? How come our communities were not informed of this opportunity to apply for funding? We need voices, loud voices to work on our behalf. Who should the voices be?

I had an immediate response from Heidi Frank, CAO for Clinton who informed me that as far as she knew, Clinton was not notified. Their mayor and council was newly elected and Susan Swan was appointed as their Health Committee chair.

I contacted Susan and she responded: “Since we have a totally new council, we are all playing catch up on things that may or may not have been done in the past. I look forward to hearing who responds to your email.”

I got a phone call that afternoon from MLA Donna Barnett who had taken time out of her busy day in the legislature to give me a phone call. Although 100 Mile and Williams Lake Hospitals (in her riding) had received funding, she was not aware that the Ashcroft (and District) Hospital was having ER problems and she had heard from no one seeking her assistance.

She told me she would look into it and get back to me.

A few days passed and I got the following email (in part) from Mayor John Ranta: “Following the newspaper article, the seniors’ organization in Ashcroft, and, more specifically, Pat Kirby called to chat about the implications of the article. The Village of Cache Creek, as far as we are able to determine, did not receive notification that funding was available and that we needed to apply to the Ministry of Health.

“I am led to believe that funding is still available and that efforts are under way to take advantage of the opportunity. The “plan” referenced in The Journal article has not been developed between the physicians and the health authorities which may be an indication of the challenges faced by our Hospital Administrator who has to divide her attention between more than just one local health facility.”

I received a response from Ashcroft Councillor Jackie Tegart, also newly elected, who said she has been asking questions ever since the press release came out and has been assured that Andrew Neuner (Interior Health’s Vice President for Community Integration) has everything under control for the next round of funding!

So, we wonder, who is he (Mr. Neuner) communicating with?

To date: it has been more than two weeks since I sent out the email and asked the question, and I have heard from one mayor, John Ranta (Cache Creek), two councillors, Susan Swan (Clinton) and Jackie Tegart (Ashcroft) and MLA Donna Barnett (Parliamentary Secretary for Rural Communities).

There has been no response from the Ashcroft mayor.

I have also sent an email to the Minister of Health, Michael DeJong, respectfully pointing out that the hospital (or Health Site as it is now called) also belongs to the Villages of Cache Creek, Clinton and all in between, even though the facility happens to be located in the Village of Ashcroft and those mayors and councillors as well as the TNRD reps in our area need to be included in any conversation or planning regarding the one and only hospital that serves us all.

How many of us know who our Hospital Administrator is? I am told  her name is Jennifer, but how many have met her?

Someone (we don’t know who) owes us an explanation.

Ida Makaro

Cache Creek