Dedicated staff and volunteers at Burnaby Hospital have served our community for decades. Unfortunately, over time the hospital has been neglected and is now in desperate physical condition.
Conditions for patients are equally desperate. Earlier this year, doctors pointed directly to the "aged hospital infrastructure" as a cause of a C. dif-ficile outbreak that resulted in 84 patient deaths.
When then Health Minister Mike de Jong announced a citizen consultation committee to be headed up by MLAs Richard T. Lee and Harry Bloy, with citizen co-chair Pam Gardner, I joined others in expressing concerns that its formation was politically motivated and that it might not act impartially.
Our concerns were well-founded. Recently leaked documents have made it clear the consultation committee was part of a B.C. Liberal Party strategy to win seats in Burnaby.
A December 2011 email outlined how the Liberals planned to use Burnaby Hospital as, "the issue we can win Burnaby Deer Lake on, re-win Burnaby North and Lougheed."
The document says, "Only Burnaby Hospital can deliver a new seat, Burnaby Deer Lake, taking out Corrigan and helping us keep two tight swings, Burnaby North and Burnaby-Lougheed."
The document was written by Gardner, a Liberal insider, and Liberal operatives Brian Bonney and Mark Robertson. This letter was sent to government and then put into motion.
The document suggests the premier should announce her intention to rebuild the hospital, saying: "This would keep the issue ours without committing $$$ and buy us time to do some polling and confirm this is a winning issue."
This stunning sentence begs the question - if polling does not confirm this as a winning issue for the Liberals, would they then return to their pattern of neglecting the hospital?
The document repeatedly reinforces that the objective of the plan is political gain rather than addressing the health-care needs of the community.
A series of emails from September 2012 indicate that political manipulation continued in the operations of the committee. Gardner promises that the report writer, a past president of the Liberal Party of B.C., would divert blame for the neglect of the hospital from the Liberal government to the chair of the Fraser Health Authority.
Much of the leaked correspondence is shocking.
There was blatant political manipulation of a process that many in Burnaby took in good faith and it is particularly disrespectful to those who took the time to make submissions to the committee, and to some committee members themselves who took part in the process in good faith.
Unfortunately, since the credibility of the committee is destroyed, so is the credibility of the report.
There may be some information in it that can be of use, perhaps some of the content of what I am sure were valuable submissions. But we certainly can't trust any of the conclusions or recommendations, given the overt political manipulation.
I am shocked that local MLAs Richard T. Lee and Harry Bloy were part of this. Citizens should be able to trust that their elected representatives live up to the very highest standards of integrity. In this case, they have not.
For the future, I hope that the continued planning of the Fraser Health Authority, apart from this tainted committee, is legitimate.
Unfortunately it will now be hard to know given that this political scheme reaches right to the premier's office.
The people of Burnaby need an independent, unbiased, evidence-based evaluation of the state of Burnaby Hospital, and of how to address the health care needs of their community. They deserve no less.
Kathy Corrigan is the NDP MLA for Burnaby-Deer Lake.