November Town Hall: New Hospital

Last Thursday, over 100 people gathered at the Duncan Community Lodge for our first town hall. The topic was the new hospital. The panel of speakers included CVRD chair Jon Lefebure, Dr. David Anderson from Island Health, Alison Taylor from the Cowichan District Hospital Foundation, and CVRHD Project Manager Tom Anderson. Each panelist presented information on the project plan, costs, funds raised, and timelines. 

We learned that even if the NDP government requests the business case for the new hospital next spring, we are still many years away from opening the doors of our new hospital. We heard from the audience that staff morale in the hospital is low and we must find ways to improve it while we await our new building. We heard that there are lessons to be learned from the newly built hospitals in Comox and Campbell River. Public engagement is critical to a positive outcome in designing a hospital that suits the Cowichan Valley’s singular needs.

We also heard from Patricia Dawn from Red Willow Womyn’s organization, who shared her vision for an apprehension-free zone in the new hospital’s maternity ward. The program—called Fir Square at BC Women’s Hospital—provides a place for mothers who are addicted to substances to remain in hospital while she and babe are stabilized. They also ensure the mother is supported in her community before she leaves the hospital. Patricia is advocating for this same service in Cowichan. 

After hearing all this input, one man made a moving statement. He said at first he believed that as a cost-saving measure we should simply take a template from the new north island hospitals and apply it to the Cowichan Valley—but he has changed his mind. He visit the Museum of Civilization in Ottawa, whose main entrance is home to many totem poles. He was inspired by the message it sent to visitors to the museum: Indigenous people are central to Canada. After hearing what audience members said about including Indigenous culture and programs in the hospital, he believed that same philosophy should be applied to the design of the new Cowichan hospital.

There will be many more opportunities to participate in discussions about our new hospital. I encourage people from all walks of life to weigh-in during the public engagement phase. It will be exciting to see the hospital this community builds.