Opinion: Burnaby was bold funding a CT scanner. It's just not their job

Chris Campbell

Let me state up top and clearly that this column is not meant to criticize the Burnaby council members who voted to grant $1 million to help buy a second CT scanner for Burnaby Hospital.

The decision was done with the best of intentions and will greatly benefit Burnaby residents when it is finally up and running. You can read more about the decision here.

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I have no issue with the spirit of the grant because it will undoubtedly make life easier for patients by cutting down a hefty waiting list.

Couns. Colleen Jordan and Dan Johnston voted against the motion, basically saying that it’s not the city’s responsibility because hospitals are a provincial Ministry of Health jurisdiction.

They have a point.

The events of this week were pretty stunning. I’ve never heard of a city in B.C. making this kind of donation to buy a piece of hospital equipment.

The reason why it doesn’t usually happen is because it’s not supposed to be up to cities to fund health-care equipment. If you can give any city a reason not to spend money, then they won’t.

The word “responsibility” is an especially touchy one for Burnaby because it’s this kind of jurisdictional argument that ex-mayor Derek Corrigan used time and time again to not spend money on dealing with the city’s homeless problem.

Mayor Mike Hurley isn’t using that as an excuse, which is why the city has activated several plans to help the homeless, including last winter’s emergency shelters.

Hurley is clearly not letting jurisdiction get in the way of helping the hospital.

Coun. Sav Dhaliwal agreed in a speech during Monday’s council meeting.

“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. 

I definitely see where Dhaliwal is coming from, but where does it end?

I’ve covered city governments in Langley, Chilliwack, Abbotsford, Vancouver, Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge for the past three decades. They have all rightly complained about provincial and federal governments downloading costs onto their backs. I’ve heard councillors say that they want to use city funds for a variety of things that aren’t in their jurisdiction, but that they need to draw a line somewhere.

So, where is that line?

Getting homeless off the streets so they don’t die from exposure to the winter elements is such an urgent life-saving need. Hurley and council did the right thing on that.

Does that same logic extend to Burnaby Hospital? I’m not so sure, but I’m torn up over this.

The other issue is council making such a pointed issue about the province not funding a second CT scanner.

Council pretty much poked Premier John Horgan in the eye with their announcement, hyping that council is “going to stand up” because the province isn’t on this particular issue. This just weeks after the BC NDP government said it would cough up more than $1 billion to redevelop the hospital.

It’s not like Horgan is cheaping out on Burnaby. I’m not so sure this is such a wise political move.

Then again, perhaps cities need to do more eye-poking to get action.

Follow Chris Campbell on Twitter @shinebox44.

 

 

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