Critics question make-up of Burnaby Hospital consultation committee

Questions have been raised about the makeup of the committee charged with consulting the public on the future of Burnaby Hospital. - NewsLeader File
Questions have been raised about the makeup of the committee charged with consulting the public on the future of Burnaby Hospital.
— image credit: NewsLeader File

A newly struck community consultation committee looking at the future of Burnaby Hospital does not include any front-line nurses, according to two nurses from the facility who spoke at a recent Burnaby council meeting.

“You’re not alone,” responded Coun. Nick Volkow.

Seems no one from Burnaby city hall was invited to sit on the committee either.

In fact, Volkow said in an interview, “I found out by reading the Burnaby NewsLeader.”

And apart from one of the doctors, “I didn’t recognize a soul on [the member list].”

For the record, the 12 members of the Burnaby Hospital Community Consultation Committee are: Burnaby-Lougheed MLA Harry Bloy (chair); Burnaby-North MLA Richard Lee (vice-chair); Pamela Gardner, former hospital board member; Dr. David Jones, the hospital’s medical coordinator; Burnaby Hospital Foundation member Vern Milani; emergency physician Dr. David Yap; plastic surgeon Dr. Ross Horton; Burnaby accountant Bob Enns; SUCCESS CEO Thomas Tam; retired nurse Teresa Leung; former nurse Wendy Scott; and Jennifer Roff, registrar of the College of Denturists.

Volkow noted that any discussion about the future of the hospital could involve rezoning and traffic issues, not to mention city council’s preference that all or part of Burnaby Hospital be moved to the former youth detention centre at Willingdon Avenue and Canada Way.

“I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt,” he said. “Maybe in their haste in order to put together a committee they just somehow forgot that the City of Burnaby might be an integral part of something like that.”

Even the B.C. Conservative Party has weighed in claiming several of the committee members appear to have connections to the B.C. Liberals.

Pamela Gardner was the Liberal riding president for Burnaby-Edmonds and has donated a total of $3,637 to the party between 2006 and 2011, the Conservatives said. A Thomas Tam and a Wendy Scott have also made donations to the party, according to Elections B.C.

“How can this committee be independent with partisan Liberals dominating the board?” aid B.C. Conservative leader John Cummins, in a press release. “The planning process should put professionalism and experience above partisan connections. Determining the needs of our health care system in the future is a very complex task and the people of Burnaby deserve better.”

When the Ministry of Health was contacted for comment, its director of communications, Michelle Stewart, said, “The ministry didn’t have a role in establishing the committee.”

She suggested a reporter contact the MLAs who put the committee together, Bloy and Lee.

Calls requesting interviews with Bloy and Lee resulted in a call from Dr. David Jones, spokesman for the committee.

Jones confirmed it was mainly Bloy and Lee who chose committee members, after coming up with the idea and having it endorsed by the ministry.

He said there will be ample opportunity for stakeholders such as front-line nurses to provide input during the public consultation process. He suggested that having current Burnaby Hospital nurses on the committee could lead to lab technicians and other employee groups wanting to be included.

“There will always be somebody potentially slighted. That was not the intent and they’re going to be asked for their voice.”

Nevertheless, the committee includes three doctors.

“Twelve of us got picked,” Jones said of the committee. “To focus on who is or who isn’t on the committee downgrades the purpose of it all, which is we want a better Burnaby Hospital.”

As for the absence of a Burnaby city hall representative, Jones noted that the hospital also serves East Vancouver and that city isn’t represented either.

When a reporter noted Burnaby might be more directly relevant due to issues such as location and rezoning, he replied, “That is an excellent point that you raise ... I’ll give you my word I’ll take it to the committee and see what they think.”

He stressed the committee will hold open public meetings and is soliciting input via social media.

“We’ve got nothing to hide, we don’t want to hide anything. What we want is a better Burnaby Hospital.”

Jones dismissed the Conservatives’ claims of partisanship and said that while Pamela Gardner has been fairly active with the B.C. Liberal Party, both Thomas Tam and Wendy Scott have checked their financial records and found nothing to indicate they’d made donations to the party.

The Elections BC website cited by the Conservatives only discloses the names of donors and no other identifying information to differentiate people with the same name, he said.

“If you’re going to smear somebody, check it out, get your facts straight,” he said of Cummins.

The committee will report back to the Fraser Health Authority on their findings by the end of September.

At the same time, Fraser Health and the Burnaby Hospital Foundation have started a master-planning process to develop a clear vision for the expansion, improvement and delivery of health services at the hospital. This first-stage planning process will cost $230,000 and include architects and planners coming up with space and development options for the facility.

To make a presentation to the committee, email Follow them on Twitter (@mybbyhospital) and at www.facebookcom\mybbyhospital.

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