Friday, Feb. 2, 2018

WHAT IS HORGAN DOING? — Many NDP supporters are wondering what voter base Premier John Horgan is attempting to woo. Read it here.

VOTE FOR REFORM — Cast your vote for electoral reform at Comox Riding MLA Ronna-Rae Leonard’s Town Hall on Feb. 7. Read it here on Facebook.

GENDER NEUTRAL ANTHEM — The Senate passed a bill this week that makes the national anthem gender neutral, in some ways a return to the original 1908 wording. Read it here.

VIHA says new hospital issues are “normal” to planning

VIHA says new hospital issues are “normal” to planning

Nearly a month after Decafnation published the first of four articles that spotlighted problems at the new Comox Valley Hospital, the Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA) has issued a press release in response.

The VIHA statement released on Feb. 2 says, in part:

“Recently, there have been public statements focused on the North Island Hospital Comox Valley campus. While we know there are inaccuracies in some of these statements, we also acknowledge there are truths.

“This is a normal part of a change of this magnitude and we want to assure our staff, physician partners, patients, volunteers and the communities that the hospital serves, that we are listening and working very hard to make necessary improvements.”

These sentences contain several troubling statements.


WHAT DO YOU SAY? — Decafnation invites health care workers and others to respond to the VIHA press release with a comment below or on the Decafnation Facebook page.


First, the VIHA release repeats a claim by CVH Medical Director Dr. Jeff Beselt made to a reporter for 98.9 The GOAT that the first Decafnation article published on Jan. 15 wasn’t entirely accurate.

Decafnation immediately made repeated requests for Beselt to specify those inaccuracies. Those requests were ignored until this week.

But the errors Beselt points out have nothing to do with any of the serious issues raised in our four-part series.

Here are the three errors in the first article to which Beselt says he was referring:

1 — The cost of the Comox Valley Hospital was $331.7 million, not $350 million. We rounded up the original estimate. We’ve also requested data on any cost overruns, which are not uncommon in construction projects.

2 — The hospital building is not ‘owned’ by Tandem Health. Beselt himself errs here. We did not report the building is “owned” by Tandem. We said the building is “leased” from Tandem. It is more correct to say the building is ‘managed’ by Tandem Health under a 30-year operating agreement. It’s interesting to note that VIHA pays Tandem Health a monthly fee for these management services. 

3 — Decafnation stated that St. Joseph’s General Hospital was overcapacity on the day it closed. Beselt says that St. Joe’s was not overcapacity on that day because patient numbers were reduced for purposes of the move to the new hospital.

He’s correct for the reason he states. But the point was that St. Joe’s had been overcapacity frequently for several years before the move — a result of having to place people in acute care beds that no longer need that level of care. Further, it was known on the day St. Joe’s closed, and during the construction of CVH, that the roughly 30-40 percent of patients needing an alternate level of care (ALC) would transfer over. 

It is Decafnation’s policy to correct errors of fact quickly, so each of the articles now make note of these three corrections and one other similar error in the third article of the series.

The more troubling statement in the VIHA release is that the problems Decafnation has reported are “… a normal part of change of this magnitude ….”

It’s true that some of the issues, including staff morale, relate to former St. Joseph’s staff members habituating to the VIHA culture, and our articles reported on that.

But that doesn’t account for all of the specific problems we have identified, such as not planning for overcapacity, not recognizing that the spacious floor plan would require higher staffing levels, forgetting to include whole departments and later squeezing other departments to fit them in and not providing sufficient residential bed capacity and adequate access to other services for unpaid caregivers in the Comox Valley.

Not to mention failed heliport planning at both Comox Valley and Campbell River sites.

We could go on, but these hardly seem like “normal” parts of a well-considered planning processes. Especially when our sources say they repeatedly raised these and other specific concerns in public and employee meetings during the planning stage.

Did VIHA management simply not listen carefully to its front-line workers during the planning process? VIHA says it did, but there’s a large contingent of north Island hospital employees who strongly disagree.

The VIHA release also says it is “working hard to make necessary improvements.” We reported that in our series, too, and hope to someday see the results of that effort.

But neither Beselt or other VIHA executives would say what specific actions they have taken or plan to take. Decafnation would love to report on those measures and how they have mitigated some of the employees’ uneasiness and mistrust.

The fact is, Decafnation accumulated a multitude of information about which the taxpaying public should be concerned. We only published the portion of this information that we could independently verify and collaborate.

Following publication of the series, readers have expressed further concerns and also related patient experiences relevant to the issues raised in our articles, which we also have not published.

Starting today, however, Decafnation is publishing a selection of those observations. The point is to illustrate the breadth and variety of concerns about the building, changed procedures and how VIHA has managed the transition from St. Joseph’s.

We encourage readers to continue sharing their comments on this website or on our Facebook page.

We also encourage VIHA to not gloss over these concerns or dismiss them in public statements by trying to discredit sincere reporting. We hope instead that VIHA undertakes corrective measures that specifically address overcapacity, understaffing, low morale, health care worker safety, excessive overtime and other issues.

North Island communities deserve a great hospital. Decafnation will support every real effort to achieve that goal.

Note: This is just one sample of a voluntarily submitted comment from a single reader that was not posted to our website or Facebook page. You can view publicly made comments on those sites HERE and on the articles themselves, which are posted HERE. Decafnation has not verified this particular reader’s information.

“During an appointment for a procedure at the CV hospital in mid December, I noticed many things about the “flow” for the patient is pretty makeshift at that new hospital. The way sound carries around the admitting desk is about the worst design possible.  Sound travels very well among the chairs in the waiting area which are located across the hall from admitting. It also travels well from one admitting kiosk to the next. So patients hear way too much about each others’ admitting process. On the contrary, voices don’t carry well from the admitting kiosks across the hallway to the patient waiting area, and there is no PA system, so you can’t hear your number being called.

“As a result of the sound design, I was able to overhear a conversation between an admitting clerk and another person about the staffing situation that day. They were quite far away from the desk and trying to be discreet, but I still heard it due to the acoustics.

“Apparently the centralized staffing process isn’t working well. They started the day with one person short, but nobody told them. This caused them to fear that their coworker was missing or maybe had an accident or something.

“Signage isn’t very good. It is nearly impossible to find one’s own way from admitting to “minor day procedures” (which isn’t a good name for a place that seems to only do endoscopy).  Most of the patients arriving on the same day as my procedure had mistakenly gone to the second floor surgical unit, gotten lost, and then finally were guided by an employee to the “minor day procedures” waiting room.

“Upon arriving at the department, I noticed that area where the receptionist would normally sit was unlit and not staffed. I found out by overhearing another conversation later that the department was short a unit clerk, and running behind schedule due to misdirected patients and no unit clerk to round them up. Instead of a receptionist, there was a whiteboard on an easel where someone has crossed out the word “minor”(day procedures) and changed it to “important!”. Whoever wrote that knows how the patient feels…anytime you are going under anaesthetic, it feels pretty “important” to the patient and the family. The white board stated that the patients should take a seat and someone would come out to greet them.

“When my name was called, I was guided into the department, given a gown and a pillowcase, and directed to a change room. After putting all my personal belongings into the pillowcase, I was directed to place the pillowcase on a small metal cart, alongside many other blue pillowcases that contained other patient belongings. I thought it was weird that there were no lockers, because I had a similar procedure at St. Joe’s a few years ago and I was given a locker and a key. Patients must leave their full pillowcases in the hallway inside the department during their procedures. I then noticed a handwritten sign on a wall that read “LOCKERS!”.

“I was then guided to an area where one of the stretchers is located. The stretcher is still located in the curtained-area, and there are five chairs all crowded alongside the stretcher in a curtained area and you are pretty much knee-to-knee with all the other male and female patients who are also gowned. This encourages a great deal of unsolicited patient “sharing” about their individual medical conditions.

“I later heard from a friend who works at CVH that the original plan was to send gowned patients back to the main “minor procedure” waiting room to wait alongside all the patients and family members who are in street clothes. On the day of my procedure, there would not have been enough chairs there for all of us, and also I would not feel comfortable standing there in a gown among so many clothed strangers. So at that point, I understood why we were all ushered to a makeshift waiting area inside the department.

“After my procedure was finished, I was directed to the pile of pillowcases to retrieve my belongings and sent to a patient bathroom to change back into my clothes.

“At every interaction, the staff and my doctor treated me in a very caring professional way. The procedure went very well and I felt the staff all did an excellent job of mitigating the shortcomings of the staffing situation and the limitations of their physical surroundings. But after over $600 million dollars (Editor’s note: rough estimate for both hospitals) was spent on the project, the patients, staff, and doctors all deserve better.”



Municipal election 2018: Who’s in, who’s out around CV

Municipal election 2018: Who’s in, who’s out around CV

PHOTO: Courtenay Councilor David Frisch will seek a second term to finish work on transportation, zoning and the city’s downtown core (See story below)


With just 257 days before Comox Valley voters choose the 29 elected officials who will run local governments and school district through 2022, only a few people have declared their candidacy.

That’s not unusual for this community, where candidates historically wait until summer to announce they are running. But it’s not the norm in other communities.

In the Capital Regional District, for example, most of the 13 incumbent mayors have announced their plans to stand for re-election.In a Decafnation survey of the Valley’s three municipalities, only four incumbents say they definitely plan to seek office again: Courtenay’s Erik Eriksson and David Frisch, Comox Valley Regional District Area B Director Rod Nicol and School District 71 Board Chair Janice Caton.


FURTHER READING: David Frisch, “There’s a lot of work to do” — (SEE BELOW); Eriksson to seek mayor’s chair.


No one from Comox Town Council replied.

Courtenay Mayor Larry Jangula said his decision whether to run again weighed on several factors.

“It is far too early to make any decisions now,” he said. “I will make my mind up in the summer.”

In reference to City Council member Eriksson, who announced in October that he would seek Jangula’s mayoralty seat, the incumbent said, “It is very distracting when people indicate they are running a year away from an election. It takes everyone’s mind away from what they are doing and it politicizes every decision made at Council.”

Jangula said his decision will be based on a number of factors including his wife’s health, his health and “an examination of who might be running.”

Eriksson said, “I just had to get my campaign started. It takes time to put together a successful support team for the mayor’s office.”

Courtenay councilor Rebecca Lennox said she’s undecided.

“The opportunity to serve on council has been life-changing and I am so honoured to have had this experience,” she said. “​Being diagnosed with cancer half-way through​ this term​ has defin​i​t​e​ly changed many things for me​.

“At this point I am undecided​ whether I will run for a second term,​ and will see how I feel and how my results are looking nearer the time.” she said.

Cumberland’s Roger Kishi says he’s leaning toward running, but will decide in the spring.

Jesse Kelter, also a Cumberland councillor, said she has not decided “one way or the other about running in the next election.”

“As you can imagine, as a parent of young children and a professional it is a very tricky balance to give so much time to Council and all the committees that go along with it,” she said. “I have a lot of things to weigh ….”

School District 71 Trustee Cliff Boldt said he and his wife, Maureen, were mulling over a re-election bid, but that there were “lots of considerations.” He hasn’t decided yet.

Former NDP hopeful for the provincial Comox Valley riding, Kiyoshi Kosky said he’s also considering a run at municipal office.


David Frisch hopes to finish zoning, transportation work


First-term Courtenay Council Member David Frisch didn’t originally intend to seek a second term.

“I thought I would do a shift,” he said. “But I discovered it takes so long to do things; I’d feel like I was quitting now. There’s a lot of work to do.”

In his first term, Frisch has focused on two primary issues: zoning and transportation.

“That’s the core of what we do,” he said. “The roots of what we have today go so far back, to the Joseph McPhee layout of the city in the late 1800s, that it’s a big weight to move now.”

But Frisch believes the current council has made dramatic and positive shifts in the city’s direction. He points to the fact that council now approves all development applications and questions the value of each application to the city’s future and the Regional Growth Strategy.

He sees his role in supporting that shift in direction as one of the accomplishments of his first term.

“We’ve steered developers toward multi-unit projects and opened the door to secondary suites,” Frisch said. “There’s no easier or better mechanism to get affordable housing.”

Frisch has championed the creation of multi-use lanes. Three years ago, he pushed for protected bike lanes on Willemar Avenue, which is a corridor for three public schools. But he couldn’t move council at the time, “It was too progressive for them.”

But three years later, those bike lanes are in the transportation plan.

Frisch sits on the Comox Valley Regional District Integrated Resource Transportation Select Committee whose two main goals are: one, to create a multi-use path for bicycles, scooters and walkers along the Dyke Road; and, two, to establish a single point of contact for future transportation initiatives between municipalities.

If he’s re-elected next fall, Frisch says he will pursue more transportation and zoning solutions. He’s particularly excited about creating a scooter/cycling plan to help people move through all of west Courtenay. He envisions a grid of pathways connecting Willermar, Fitzgerald and Cliffe avenues.

And he’s not limiting his transportation vision to traditional infrastructure. Frisch believes the city can have important transportation corridors that aren’t on existing roadways. He points to the Rotary Trail alongside the E&N rail tracks and the Courtenay River Trail as examples of alternate ways for people to move around their community.

After becoming engrossed in these issues and seeing how long it takes to make progress, Frisch admits the work “might take a lifetime to do.”

But for now, he’s simply committing himself to serve a second term.


Monday, Jan. 29, 2018


HUNT OFFICERS — People attracted to Conservation office positions with the B.C. government tend to have a strong bias in favor of hunting rather than promoting biodiversity, according to a Vancouver Sun report. Read it here.

LIBERAL LEADERS — Desmond Travis writes a nice summary of B.C. Liberal party leadership candidates. Read it here.

ALPINE SKI LEGEND — The passing of a legend: Warren Miller. Read it here.

Friday, Jan. 26, 2018

HOSPITAL ERRORS REPEATED? — Planning is underway for a new hospital in the Cowichan Valley. Will they make the same mistakes that occurred during planning for the Comox Valley and Campbell River hospitals? Read it here.

JOHNS TACKLES PLASTICS — MP Gord Johns has introduced a bill (M-151) in the House of Commons to create permanent funding for community-led projects to clean up plastics and debris. And it would encourage the reduction of micro-plastics. Read it here.

And here are the recommendations of theUniversity of Victoria Environmental Law Centre that inspired Johns’ bill. Read it here.

SURFING MEGA WAVES — Here’s one for all of Decafnation’s surfing fans. A video of the first woman to successfully surf the break at Mavericks, near Half Moon Bay, California, where waves can reach 80-feet tall. Watch it here.