Union Bay opens new water treatment plant, eliminates boil-water advisories

Union Bay opens new water treatment plant, eliminates boil-water advisories

A new water treatment plant for Union Bay opened recently that is expected to eliminate boil-water advisories  |  George Le Masurier photo

Union Bay opens new water treatment plant, eliminates boil-water advisories

This is a press release from the Union Bay Improvement District issued last week

After years of planning and coordination, the Union Bay Improvement District (UBID) has completed a new water treatment facility to service 690 properties in the community – allowing a regular boil-water advisory by Island Health to be lifted.

The $4.2 million plant was officially completed on May 15 and includes filtration of the water (drawn from Langley Lake) – meeting provincial water treatment guidelines what were previously not being achieved.

“This project is a success that has been many years in the making by many people – from board members and staff who helped prepare the UBID many years ago for this investment, to Union Bay Estates for their donation of the land, to the construction crews able to wrap up the work amidst the challenges presented by COVID-19,” said Ian Munro, UBID chair.

“We are thankful to everyone A new water treatment plant was mandated by the province, and after planning, design and procurement was completed with the support of Koers Engineering, construction by Ridgeline Mechanical Ltd. began in June 2019. The original goal to complete by April was postponed due to additional constraints created by COVID-19. Along with the new treatment system, the project included the new building facility, a new glass-fused steel water reservoir and new water main and tie-ins.

The total cost of the Water Treatment Plant project supplied by Ridgeline Construction is $4.2 million, of which approximately $700,000 will be contributed from UBID’s Public Works Capital Reserve and $3.5 million will be borrowed and amortized over 25 years. Parcel taxes have increased from $345 to approximately $390 in 2020 – a $46 increase.

“The UBID’s most critical service is to provide clean, safe and reliable water to our residents, and completing this project so we could do so has been our top priority,” said Munro. “We know that the ongoing boil water advisories have been trying for many in the community and we’re thankful to all for consideration in this time,”

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$52.6 million Dementia Village planned on former St. Joseph’s General Hospital site

$52.6 million Dementia Village planned on former St. Joseph’s General Hospital site

Providence Living’s rendering of its planned Dementia Village in the Comox Valley

$52.6 million Dementia Village planned on former St. Joseph’s General Hospital site

By George Le Masurier

Island Health announced a project development agreement with Providence Living today to build and operate a 156-bed dementia village on the former St. Joseph’s General Hospital site.

“Our government continues to take action to ensure seniors, especially those with complex care needs, are receiving the best care possible,” Minister of Health Adrian Dix said in a press release this morning. “Friends and family should be confident knowing a loved parent or grandparent with dementia is in a safe environment, which is why I am pleased to see this project take another step towards meeting the needs of seniors in the Comox Valley.”

Read more about long-term care issues in the Comox Valley

Leah Hollins, Island Health Board Chair said she was”excited to see Vancouver Island’s first publicly funded dementia village be built in the Comox Valley.”

The dementia village will feature 148 publicly-funded long-term care beds and eight publicly funded respite beds. It will be built on the site of the existing The Views long-term care home and the former St. Joseph’s General Hospital. Once completed, the dementia village will replace the existing beds at The Views.

“We are very pleased to take this next step in fulfilling our mandate to provide innovative seniors care by building a long-term care home modelled on the concepts of a dementia village,” said Jane Murphy, President and CEO of Providence Living, and the former CEO of St. Joseph’s Hospital. “The Views at St. Joseph’s has a long history in Comox, and we are committed to seeking community input to ensure we best meet local needs. We look forward to continuing our work with Island Health to advance our shared goal of helping seniors in the Comox Valley live to their full potential.”

The dementia village will include:

• Small, self-contained households of 12 residents where each resident will have their own room and bathroom, leading to heightened infection control in a modern space
• A social model of resident-directed care for people with dementia
• Fostering free movement of people with dementia within a home and village setting
• Ensuring resident involvement in everyday activities within the household or the wider, secure village
• Focusing on individualized smaller groupings; cultural bonds, friendships, social activities
• Emphasizing daily life and sense of belonging – involving residents with food preparation, cooking, laundry
• Amenities for residents and community that include community gardens, child daycare, Island Health-funded adult day programs, and a community space, art studio, bistro and chapel

Construction of the dementia village is estimated to cost $52.6 million. Island Health will provide annual operational funding to meet the province’s target of 3.36 direct care hours per resident day. Providence Living has already begun the redevelopment planning process, with a goal of starting construction in spring or summer 2021.

“As a resident of the Comox Valley for the past 30 years, I’ve seen the increased need for seniors’ care, and I’ve heard from people looking for choices in long term care homes to meet their specific holistic needs,” said Ronna Rae Leonard, parliamentary secretary for seniors and MLA for Courtenay-Comox. “This innovative dementia village will help seniors experiencing dementia continue to have a good and dignified quality of life.”

Island Health and Providence Living will be consulting and engaging with stakeholders and the community as the project moves ahead.

Providence Living is a new faith-based, non-profit health care organization established by Providence Health Care to redefine our collective expectation of seniors’ care in British Columbia. The formation of Providence Living came from a deep desire to be part of a global movement to completely rethink and reimagine the experience of seniors and others in need of care, replacing care homes with genuine communities.

The organization was formerly known as Providence Residential and Community Care, and supported by St. Paul’s Foundation, Comox Valley Healthcare Foundation, and Auxiliary Society For Comox Valley Healthcare.

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More Health Care | Top Feature

Petition put to BC Legislature: restore North Island pathology

North Island MLA Claire Trevena presented a petition signed by over 2,500 people to the BC Legislature Nov. 20 that calls for the return of onsite clinical pathologists’ services to the Campbell River Hospital and to investigate possible conflicts of interest within Island Health

BC’s logging practices called out by Comox Valley group

Supporters of Save Our Forests Team – Comox Valley (SOFT-CV) rallied outside Claire Trevena’s office in Campbell River to protest the provincial government’s continued logging of the last stands of productive old-growth on Vancouver Island

Patients, lab staff suffer from reduced pathology services at North Island hospitals

If Island Health executives get their way, the new Comox Valley Hospital could lose all of its onsite clinical pathologist services sometime next year, a move that area doctors and elected officials believe will further diminish patient care on the North Island. It’s already happened in Campbell River and wait times for results are getting longer

Town Hall to explain how VIHA’s cuts have hurt North Island patient care

Town Hall to explain how VIHA’s cuts have hurt North Island patient care

Town Hall to explain how VIHA’s cuts have hurt North Island patient care

By George Le Masurier

For more than six years, Campbell River and Comox Valley doctors and other medical professionals have tried to stop the erosion of laboratory services performed on the North Island, but both the Vancouver Island Health Authority and the Ministry of Health have continued to allow the transfer of critical lab functions to Victoria area doctors.

“​It’s time for the community to speak up – for the services that we were promised when the new North Island hospitals opened, for our doctors and lab staff, for all of us,” said Barbara Bailey, a spokesman for Citizens for Quality Health Care.

READ MORE: Our series on pathology services in the North Island

To get the BC healthy ministry’s attention, the citizens group has organized a Town Hall meeting from 2 pm to 4 pm at the Campbell River Sportsplex. They hope people will attend to show their support, share experiences and sign a petition that demands the return of onsite clinical pathologists’ services to the Campbell River Hospital laboratory.

Speakers at the Town Hall will include Dr. Chris Bellamy, one of the Comox Valley’s three General Pathologists who still do clinical pathology onsite at the Comox Valley Hospital. But VIHA (also known as Island Health) also wants to take all clinical pathologists’ services from the Comox Valley Hospital laboratory and move that work to the same group of Victoria doctors.

That happened to Dr. Aref Tabarsi, one of two General Pathologists in Campbell River.

​After VIHA moved clinical pathologists’ services from the Campbell River hospital to Victoria, there has been a significant delay in test results, especially for urgent cases, which has had a negative impact on patient care and clinical outcomes.

It has also created a breakdown in working relations because hospital lab staff and local doctors can no longer consult with the pathologists on site to provide optimum services to patients.

“I will absolutely guarantee that this shift will result in the further erosion of technologists locally and will be bad for patient care in this area,” said Dr. Chris Bellamy, who has practiced general pathology in the Comox Valley for 30 years.

​Despite letters of support for reinstating onsite clinical pathologists’ services to Campbell River laboratory technologists and assistants, as well as 70 North Island general practice physicians, have written letters detailing the problems centralization has caused for their work and for patient care, and expressing their support for reinstating onsite clinical pathologists’ services.

But the Vancouver Island Health Authority has so far dismissed their concerns.

VIHA has not responded to the laboratory staff or doctors. The Ministry of Health has not respond to the Campbell River City Council or the Comox Strathcona Regional Hospital Board, both of who have asked for the return clinical pathology services to the Campbell River Hospital.​ ​

“​Come to the Town Hall on February 9. Learn from the senior pathologists at the Campbell River and Comox Valley Hospitals, lab staff and doctors in the community, share your own experiences.,” Bailey said.

​For more information, call Citizens for Quality Health Care: 250-287-3096 or Council of Canadians Campbell River Chapter: 250-286-3019.

 

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More Health Care | Top Feature

Petition put to BC Legislature: restore North Island pathology

North Island MLA Claire Trevena presented a petition signed by over 2,500 people to the BC Legislature Nov. 20 that calls for the return of onsite clinical pathologists’ services to the Campbell River Hospital and to investigate possible conflicts of interest within Island Health

BC’s logging practices called out by Comox Valley group

Supporters of Save Our Forests Team – Comox Valley (SOFT-CV) rallied outside Claire Trevena’s office in Campbell River to protest the provincial government’s continued logging of the last stands of productive old-growth on Vancouver Island

Patients, lab staff suffer from reduced pathology services at North Island hospitals

If Island Health executives get their way, the new Comox Valley Hospital could lose all of its onsite clinical pathologist services sometime next year, a move that area doctors and elected officials believe will further diminish patient care on the North Island. It’s already happened in Campbell River and wait times for results are getting longer

CVRD directors approve racecar testing at Smit Field for one year by 2-1 vote

CVRD directors approve racecar testing at Smit Field for one year by 2-1 vote

CVRD Area A Director Daniel Arbour cast the deciding vote for race car testing  |  George Le Masurier photo

CVRD directors approve racecar testing at Smit Field for one year by 2-1 vote

By George Le Masurier

Race car testing will continue at Smit Field next to Nymph Falls Nature Park, at least for another season, after Comox Valley rural directors voted 2-1 in favor of a scaled down permit.

The Vanisle Airfield Society, an association of drag racing enthusiasts, had applied for a three-year temporary use permit to test and tune their cars over three days, three times during the summer season. CVRD staff, however, recommended directors approve only a one-year permit with other limiting conditions, such as a cap on 30 cars per event.

But when Director Daniel Arbour (Area A) appeared ready to vote against the staff recommendation based on neighborhood concerns, Director Edwin Grieve (Area C) proposed limiting the three test and tune events to a single day. Grieve chairs the electoral services commission.

READ MORE: Get in-depth background on this issue here

But society president Ken Peterson said a one-day event wasn’t workable for the effort it takes to set up timing and lighting equipment and for out-of-town race car owners to travel to the Comox Valley.

Arbour then moved to approve two two-day events on a one-year basis. He and Grieve outvoted Area B Director Arzeena Hamir who voted against approving a temporary use permit.

The vote came after three neighborhood residents urged directors to deny issuing a permit and society representatives and the Smit Field owners tried to assure directors they were attempting to minimize negative impacts and actively seeking to secure a permanent site elsewhere.

 

SPEAKERS OPPOSED

Ron Bridge, a Forbidden Plateau Road resident since 1975, said he moved to the area before the Smit Field aerodrome was established for a quieter environment and to be closer to nature. He was instrumental in the founding of Nymph Falls park.

Bridge said the testing of drag racing cars is incongruous with the neighborhood’s lifestyle values and out of place next to a nature park. He asked the directors to preserve an area with natural wonders.

Two other neighbors spoke against the testing of drag racing cars, including a woman who said she walks in the park every day, but can’t go out of her house on days of the events.

“There must be a quieter way to raise money for charity,” she said.

 

CAR OWNERS TRYING

The Vanisle Airfield Society was formed in 2015 after Smit Field owners Dan Annand and Kevin Greissel offered their concrete runway for the testing and tuning of drag racing cars.

They held several events in violation of Comox Valley Regional District zoning bylaws before neighbors complained. The regional district then prohibited future events until the rural directors approved a temporary use permit.

Tania Woodbeck, speaking on behalf of the society, said the group was a network of friends and relatives and would never become more than that.

But she admitted during questioning from Director Hamir that a previous “invitational” event had attracted drag racing fans who were not members of the association, and who had engaged in harassing social media posts.

“It was bullying, for sure,” Woodbeck said, adding that they weren’t members of the society. She promised directors that inviting non-members wouldn’t ever happen again.

Woodbeck said the society is trying to be good community neighbors by raising money for charities during lunchtime barbecues and purchasing carbon tax credits to offset their greenhouse gas emissions.

Peterson said the society is only looking for a temporary location to test and tune its cars. He said they are actively looking for a permanent site elsewhere.

 

ARBOUR CASTS KEY VOTE

Before the Dec. 9 vote, it was commonly known that Director Hamir would vote against approving a permit and that Director Grieve would vote in favor. That put Director Arbour from Hornby Island in the position of deciding the issue.

Arbour said it was a hard choice for him, because it’s a “delicate thing to bring people together.” He said both sides and the three elected officials had been offended by some of the comments made prior to the meeting.

He called a temporary use permit a privilege, not a right.

And he said neighborhood concerns were strong and persistent.

“When I hear that people say they might move (as a result of the noisy events), it indicates an emotional charge,” he said. “This is difficult for me because you get elected to make everyone happy.”

In making the motion to approve two two-day events, Arbour specified that if they apply for another temporary use permit next year, he’ll require more concrete evidence that the society is, in fact, actively looking for a permanent site.

It was a hint that he didn’t envision issuing temporary use permits repeatedly.

 

HAMIR OPPOSED

Area B Director Arzeena Hamir said many of the property owners didn’t “sign up” for a temporary use permit to allow drag racing cars in the neighborhood.

She responded to a comment made by property co-owner Kevin Greissel that he could use his property as he wished.

“No, you can’t,” Hamir said. “We have rules around zoning and uses to be good neighbors.”

She would vote against the motion, Hamir said, because the activity is not allowed under the zoning and it’s having a negative impact on neighbors. She also noted that carbon offsets were not meant as an excuse for burning fossil fuels but to transition away from them.

Hamir said she worried that approving the permit would send a signal that testing drag racing cars in rural residential zoning was okaty.

She praised the society for raising money for charity, and said she hoped that whichever way the vote went that they would continue the practice.

 

GRIEVE RAMBLES ON

Before turning the discussion over to directors Arbour and Hamir, Commission Chair Grieve went on a long, rambling speech that at times lectured on the principles of democracy and other times invoked images of terrorists or insurgents.

He started off stating that “we live in a world of polarization, so we have to peel off the harassment piece.” Neighbors who have complained say they have been harassed on social media.

Grieve went on to say that nobody has been harassed more than elected officials and told stories about Lower Mainland and Victoria area public officials who were bullied on social media. He said, “especially women” were targets of people hiding behind pseudonyms.

He called the opposing views on testing drag cars at Smit Field a “clash of cultures … so there’s diversity.”

Whether or not the temporary use permit request was the “thin edge of the wedge,” to more frequent and varied events at Smit Field, Grieve suggested “we test and tune the test and tune.”

Grieve said he didn’t see the activity growing into “some uguly event,” and that a compromise shouldn’t be an “insufferable imposition.”

Realizing he was speaking at length, Grieve said, “Allow me some latitude here, I am the chair.” He then told a story of a hesitant person standing up to speak at a public meeting as an example of “what democracy is.” He praised everyone for speaking their opinion.

“We don’t have people wearing armbands riding around in pickup trucks with machine guns mounted on them,” he said.

 

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The Week: VIHA and province disrespect our hospital board, medical staff and the public

The Week: VIHA and province disrespect our hospital board, medical staff and the public

When fog settles in, our vision is limited  |  George Le Masurier photo

The Week: VIHA and province disrespect our hospital board, medical staff and the public

By George Le Masurier

As a retired journalist who has seen the health care system from up close on both sides of the Canada-US border, I can tell you that we are fortunate to live here.

It’s true we don’t have a Mayo Clinic or a John Hopkins University, and there aren’t storefronts offering MRIs on every street corner (only a slight exaggeration). But we have our fair share of brilliant and competent people providing us with health care, from brain surgeons right through to admitting clerks.

I have retired friends in the Puget Sound who pay $1,000 per month for comparable health insurance that used to cost BC residents just $75 a month, and is now free. For their inflated cost, my American friends get little more than better access to technology and procedures, although that can be critical in certain situations.

I say this to put my next sentence in context.

Many of those who work in the healthcare field on Vancouver Island — the doctors, nurses, laboratory workers, kitchen workers in hospitals, receptionists and more — believe that the Vancouver Island Health Authority is poorly managed. Employee surveys at Nanaimo General and the two North Island Hospitals in 2017/2018 bear this out.

And sadly, with a few exceptions, our elected officials and our mainstream Island media have let them off the hook.

VIHA, or Island Health if you prefer, is a secretive organization whose top decision-makers appear out of touch with the people they are supposed to serve. It’s an organization that could not properly plan and build new hospitals in Campbell River and the Comox Valley; planning flaws that after two years  still have not been fully corrected.

How else can you describe the VIHA executives that have imposed reductions of pathology services north of the Malahat, especially on the North Island? Or, how they have dealt with the public that has explained the harm that these changes have made to patient care? We have lost critical onsite clinical pathologists’ services in Campbell River, and soon, if VIHA gets its way, in the Comox Valley, too.

The centralization of clinical pathology interpretation and diagnosis in Victoria is a disservice to north Islanders. Next on the block might be medical imaging. After that, who knows?

 

DECISIONS MADE IN ISOLATION

VIHA hatched this plan to shut down certain laboratory services at our hospitals without prior consultation with our doctors, our lab staff or even our elected officials at the Comox Strathcona Regional Hospital District. Consulting the public, of course, would never cross their minds.

North Island medical professionals, such as Dr. Aref Tabarsi, a Campbell River general pathologist, learned of this centralization plan through an out-of-the-blue phone call. “Don’t do this work any more, send it to doctors in Victoria.”

This change has created potential life-threatening situations and, at the very least, has added unnecessary stress to people already suffering through longer wait times, increased uncertainty and delays in treatment. North Island doctors are concerned that people will die as a direct result of not having clinical pathologists’ services onsite in the Valley and Campbell River.

And here’s another problem: our elected hospital board directors have no say at all about operations at our hospitals. The extent of their job, it appears, is to ask taxpayers to pony up 40 percent of the capital costs for projects proposed by VIHA.

To their credit, hospital board directors wrote a letter to the VIHA board chair and BC Health Minister Adrian Dix asking them to restore the lab services VIHA has grabbed for Victoria. That would, in turn, free up funds for hiring a needed third general pathologist for the Campbell River Hospital.

That was last spring. To date there has been no response to their letter from Health Minister Dix and directors who asked to meet with him at the UBCM Convention were rebuffed. VIHA did respond with a presentation notable for its flawed graphs, inaccurate information and a confusing explanation that did not address the board’s concerns.

Now, the board is struggling with how to respond to this treatment and whether they even can advocate for the citizens of the North Island. It’s a problem foisted upon them by VIHA, which has neglected public sentiment and deflected its accountability.

 

HOSPITAL BOARD MUST ADVOCATE

The public has naturally turned to the one and only group of regionally accountable individuals available, the regional hospital board.

It was the hospital board that committed North Island taxpayers to pay for 40 percent of what we all assumed were two complete hospitals. We expected they would come with fully-functioning laboratories suitable for community hospitals, which we already had at the old Campbell River Hospital and at St. Joseph’s.

Now we have hospitals with diminished laboratory services, and who knows what further reductions are yet to come. This is not what we were promised when our hospital board committed us to a $267 million debt.

How is it possible that our elected local officials who sit on the Comox Strathcona Hospital Board are reduced to nothing more than a conduit through which VIHA extracts capital funding from local taxpayers with the blessing of a provincial government that thinks it cannot be held to account?

We elected the hospital board directors. It’s shameful that the province takes our money and treats them with such disrespect.

Can the board accept this role, standing idly by rather than rising up to advocate for North Island patients? Isn’t it right that, at the very least, they demand to have the services we paid expected? And that they continue to demand it until full hospital services are restored?

Their advocacy is important and can be powerful. And it’s their obligation to us, the constituents who are paying the bill.

 

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Violations spark demand for Seniors Village takeover

After three residents died as an indirect result of a norovirus outbreak at Comox Valley Seniors Village earlier this year, a group of family members of the facility’s residents demanded an investigation and better oversight of the facility by Island Health