Burnaby-Deer Lake MLA Kathy Corrigan has lost faith in the consultation process for the expansion of Burnaby Hospital after reviewing emails obtained by the B.C. NDP.
"This is politics at its most cynical and disreputable, as far as I'm concerned, when you have the health of a community being played with for political reasons," she said in a phone interview Thursday.
The emails, which the New Democratic Party gave to the Vancouver Sun, indicate that the consultation process has been politically driven. The emails were sent between members of the Burnaby Hospital community consultation committee and B.C. Liberal politicians and staff.
"It just confirms my concerns," Corrigan said. "I was very doubtful and my doubt has paid off."
Corrigan now believes the entire consultation process was "tainted" with political motivations.
"I think it's sad for Burnaby and I think it's inappropriate that the public put their faith in this committee, and this committee was not impartial," she said.
"Now I can say I have no faith in anything in the report because it was being manipulated for the purposes of the Liberal Party and the local MLAs."
The health issues at Burnaby Hospital - particularly the ongoing C. Difficile infection outbreaks reported over the past year and a half - make the expansion of Burnaby Hospital a life and death issue, according to Corrigan.
"We've had many people die with C. Difficile," she said. "The C. Difficile issue at the hospital, which continues, was the reason for the review of the site, and what we have here are people playing politics with it."
One of the emails was copied to the private email address for the B.C. Minister of Health, Margaret MacDiarmid, which concerns Corrigan, as private emails likely wouldn't be accessed through freedom of information requests.
Corrigan said she doesn't believe using the private email address was done accidentally.
"That is a very serious lapse by the minister because you are avoiding providing information through freedom of information requests," she said.
The emails indicate the committee report is going to conclude the issues with the hospital and lack of resources all are the responsibility of the Fraser Health authority, not the Liberal government.
An email of Oct. 12, 2012 from Gardner to Brian Bonney, Harry Bloy and others, states: "Sonja is thinking she'll have the report done by mid-week next week. She said she's gone through all the reports info etc. and said the report will state the speakers have commented on a need for a new building but a major theme has been the lack of resources and how BH has been the worse resourced hospital in Fraser Health. She feels this isn't a reflection on the Liberal government but more on the chair of Fraser Health. The government hires someone and has to trust they will do an equitable job. It's not the Liberals that force and continue to allow the citizens of Burnaby to suffer." The "Sonja" Gardner refers to is the report writer, Sonja Sanguineti, "a retired lawyer and former president of the B.C. Liberal Party."
The emails also mention the Burnaby Hospital site director and executive director, and members of the Burnaby Hospital Foundation, as agreeing to participate and learn about the project, which worries Corrigan, as well.
"I'm concerned the process is tainted from top to bottom," she said. "I don't trust any of it anymore."
Fraser Health released a statement saying it will consider the report from the committee regarding the expansion of Burnaby Hospital, but did not address the issues brought forward by the emails specifically.
"Fraser Health welcomes input from the Burnaby Hospital community consultation committee, which will be considered along with other community input as we prepare our final report that will be submitted to the Ministry of Health for consideration," Tasleem Juma, senior public affairs consultant for the health authority, stated in an email to the NOW. "Following that, details on any expansion plans would be released to stakeholders in partnership with the Ministry of Health."
Fraser Health is currently working through its own evidence-based process to identify short-to-medium and long-term needs and future vision for Burnaby Hospital," the email said. "This planning process is nearing completion and we are currently reviewing a range of scenarios for the expansion of services and capacity at Burnaby Hospital. These scenarios are based on a review of current conditions on the site and demographic projections for Burnaby and its surrounding communities. Given Burnaby's central location and population growth, Fraser Health is committed to Burnaby Hospital continuing to play an important role in our network of acute care hospitals."
Fraser Health is responsible for the master plan for Burnaby Hospital, Minister MacDiarmid told the NOW in a phone interview Thursday.
"It is important for people to understand how these things work," she said. "The process is through the Fraser Health authority."
The consultation committee will not be making decisions about the future of the hospital and is only a conduit for public feedback, she added.
"This was a way of getting input," MacDiarmid said. "The people that were involved here and the two MLAs - will not be designing the hospital, that would be completely crazy."
The consultation committee was formed by Burnaby-Lougheed Liberal MLA Harry Bloy, who chaired it, and Burnaby North Liberal MLA Richard Lee, who was the vice-chair, MacDiarmid said
"They formed a committee and there are people who have political views on that committee, there's no question, there were some personal emails," she said. "I can understand why people would be concerned about the content of those emails."
MacDiarmid was invited by Bloy to attend one of the public meetings as a medical professional before she was appointed Minister of Health, she said, and the meeting took place a day and a half after she was appointed.
"The meeting I attended was wide open to the public, I think it had been widely advertised, and there were lots of different people there, there were some doctors and other care providers, lots of members of the public, people who had been patients at the hospital and people who wanted to weigh in," she said. "What they were really talking about was the kind of hospital they wanted, the location, some special kind of services they thought would be good to have available at the hospital. It was a very open discussion."
MacDiarmid said at least one person on the committee knew her personally and likely only had her personal email address, .
"Normally I do my work from my government email account, and that would be one thing I would take away from this," she said. "I ought to have switched over, just to say to people, 'if you want to send me some materials, here's a government email address for you to do so.' I don't think I corresponded with any of those people, I think I was just copied on that email."
The committee did not receive any government funding, she said, adding Fraser Health has received some funding for its planning process.
MacDiarmid expects to receive the report from the committee soon.
"I expect the most reassuring thing for people is going to be when they see the report, I think the report is going to talk about the wide consultation and the things that people raised," she said, adding it would be made available to the public and to Fraser Health.
Mike Olds, spokesperson for the Hospital Employees' Union, said the consultation process is disappointing.
"Judging from the emails, it's really disappointing that government's response to a serious problem at Burnaby General has been so blatantly partisan and so clearly intended to deflect blame from the B.C. Liberals and their policies," he said.
"A lot of the problems they've been dealing with - such as the high rates of super bug infection reported earlier this year - arise directly from provincial government policies," he added.
"What these email show us is there seems to be an attempt to deflect responsibility from the government to the health authority, and that's really unfortunate and doesn't serve the needs of Burnaby residents, or the patients of Burnaby General or the workers who are trying to provide good care at the hospital."
Having an in-house cleaning staff is a key factor in infection control, Olds said, adding the hospital outsources those jobs through a private company.
id "I very much doubt this community consultation is going to be talking about that issue," he added.
Bloy and Dr. David Jones, spokesperson for the committee, did not respond to requests for an interview before press time.
Pamela Gardner, citizen chair for the committee, was also not available for an interview before press time. She is past president of the Burnaby-Edmonds Liberal Riding, according to the Vancouver Sun.
For the full text of the emails posted by the Vancouver Sun, go to http: //www. scribd.com/doc/111072503/Burnaby-Hosp-Emails-Redacted.