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'We're going to stand up': Burnaby grants $1M to buy CT scanner

City council rebukes province with donation to Burnaby Hospital Foundation to help pay for second imaging machine
CT scanner burnaby
A mobile CT scanner is parked outside Burnaby Hospital, acting as backup to the machine inside.

The City of Burnaby is stepping into the province’s shoes to help pay for a second CT scanner at Burnaby Hospital.

City council approved a $1-million grant to the Burnaby Hospital Foundation to partially cover the cost of the medical imaging equipment, which will support the facility’s existing scanner during breakdowns and enable 10,000 more scans per year, according to a city report. 

The hospital currently has one CT scanner, installed in 2008, which breaks down regularly, sometimes leading hospital staff to send patients in need of scans to other hospitals in taxis, Mayor Mike Hurley said at a Monday council meeting.  

“This is not what should happen in the third-largest community in B.C. This is a very, very important thing we're trying to do here and it can affect every family in our city at any time,” he said. 

Hurley noted a mobile CT scanner is currently parked in the hospital’s parking lot, acting as a backup to the one machine inside.

“I don’t find that acceptable,” he said. 

While the existing scanner is set to be replaced, the province doesn’t appear keen to pay for a second machine at the hospital.

That’s why, Hurley said, the city felt compelled to wade into a provincial jurisdiction and help the foundation reach its fundraising goal to buy a second scanner for an estimated $1.5 million.

Large city grant 'quite unusual'

Michael Keller, spokesperson for the hospital foundation, said it’s “quite unusual” for a municipality to give such a large grant to a hospital foundation. The money will go towards an ongoing effort to buy the new scanner, as well as other medical imaging equipment, he said.

Keller said he was unable to predict when exactly the purchase and installation of the second scanner would happen, but said it would happen before the $1.3-billion redevelopment of the hospital goes ahead over the coming years.  

The foundation was “absolutely delighted” and “extremely grateful” to hear of the city’s donation, CEO Kristy James said in a statement. 

Councillors clash 

The motion to grant the money passed with councillors Dan Johnston and Colleen Jordan opposed. 

“There are lots of organizations and institutions in this community that the government should fund more quickly and we can't afford to take on all of that as our responsibility,” she said. “I think it's horrible that our hospital has gotten to the situation that it's in now and this is just one example of it, but I don't think, as a city, that we can afford to pick that up.”

Jordan’s objections prompted an impassioned speech from Coun. Sav Dhaliwal. 

“Many will say it's not our responsibility. You know? That's what got us into this mess,” Dhaliwal said, noting Burnaby had used the same excuse to avoid acting on housing affordability. 

He said the money would come from the city’s gaming reserves, which are funded by casino revenues rather than property taxes. 

“We're going to stand up,” he said. 

Replacement scanner coming 

The province has already committed funds to replace the existing scanner, which is just over 10 years old and approaching its end of life, Fraser Health spokesperson Tasleem Juma told the NOW in an email. The hospital is currently being renovated to make way for the new machine, she said. 

“The new, replacement scanner uses advanced technology to produce images that are more clear, and can be processed more quickly,” she said. 

Juma said she was unable to provide an exact date for when the new scanner will be operational. 

The NOW requested interviews with NDP MLA Anne Kang, whose riding is home to the hospital, and Health Minister Adrian Dix. Neither responded by deadline.  

Editor's note: A previous version of this story identified Coun. Colleen Jordan as the only council member to vote against the grant. Coun. Dan Johnston was also opposed. The story has been corrected.