B.C.’s opposition leader is calling for the province to fast-track upgrades to the beleaguered Surrey Memorial Hospital.
BC United Leader Kevin Falcon and members of his caucus toured the hospital Thursday, and accused the province’s health minister afterward of playing politics with the facility.
“Crisis” conditions at the hospital have led a parade of recent headlines, with key issues including overcrowding, understaffing, emergency department congestion and a shortage of admitting doctors.
On Wednesday, Health Minister Adrian Dix pledged to expand the facility, in addition to an already-planned second hospital for Surrey.
Falcon called it too little too late, and accused the minister of staging the announcement only after weeks of bad press and learning the opposition had its own tour planned Thursday.
“When I hear a department head tell me that women are literally in danger coming to this hospital, that is something that gives me a great cause for concern,” he said.
“When Adrian Dix comes here and talks about changes 18 months from now? Not acceptable.”
Pointing to the half-billion dollar expansion he spearheaded at the facility as BC Liberal health minister over a decade ago, Falcon went on to say the NDP had neglected to invest in health care in the province’s fastest growing city.
“The NDP have now been in power for two terms, they are in their sixth year in government and they are only deciding now it’s a crisis,” Falcon said.
The NDP tell the story differently, arguing the entire Fraser Health region suffered from under-investment under several terms of BC Liberal rule.
“Starting in 2017 we’ve seen significant investment in health care,” Dix said. “But we were dramatically below health-care inflation for the 10 years prior to that.
Politicking over health care in Surrey is nothing new, with division and debate stretching back successive governments.
Land set aside for a previous conceptualization of a second Surrey hospital in Panorama Ridge was deemed surplus and sold off a decade ago by the then-BC Liberal government. At the time of the sale, Falcon was serving as finance minister.
Falcon has previously said the site was scrapped because it wasn’t accessible.
The opposition leader has maintained the redevelopment of Surrey Memorial was in the region’s best interest, and on Thursday pledged to build a second new tower at the hospital if BC United formed government.
“We have to get away from the announcements and re-announcements … every time there is a crisis this government just makes an announcement,” Falcon said.
“We call for more urgency around this. If this is indeed a crisis, treat it like a crisis.”
No matter who is in government, new, expanded and upgraded facilities will only be one part of solving the problems plaguing health care in Surrey.
The other half of the equation will be finding the bodies to staff those facilities — something Falcon said he’ll have more to say about in the weeks to come.
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