Hospital issue key at forum

Carter
Carter Haydu
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Candidates from Moose Jaw North and Moose Jaw Wakamow prepare to engage in the Moose Jaw & District Chamber of Commerce political forum at Heritage Inn on Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2011. Times-Herald photo by Carter Haydu

There were many themes to Tuesday’s all-candidates forum at Heritage Inn, but the one that perhaps reoccurred more often was Moose Jaw’s new hospital project.

On Sept. 30, the province announced a new hospital for the Friendly City, to be complete by the end of 2015 and implementing a “LEAN” design to increase efficiencies.

During this week’s Moose Jaw & District Chamber of Commerce forum for Moose Jaw North and Moose Jaw Wakamow candidates, Moose Jaw North Saskatchewan Party candidate and incumbent Warren Michelson said the future hospital project is an example of one of the 140 promises his party made before forming the government in 2007, and has since kept.

“The hospital that was a priority of mine in the last election, (and) we’re getting a new hospital in Moose Jaw,” Michelson said to immediate applause from much of the forum crowd.

However, Moose Jaw North NDP candidate Derek Hassen said he is consistently hearing concerns regarding the hospital project while campaigning in advance of the Nov. 7 election.

“It is time for a new hospital in Moose Jaw,” he said, adding (however) the process towards developing this new hospital must include the people who will be using it and who will be working in it.

“That is why we are also calling for public consultations, because this is a project that impacts us all.”

Moose Jaw Wakamow NDP candidate and incumbent Deb Higgins said the announcement for the new hospital project was “clearly delayed” to coincide with the provincial election call.

When it comes to a LEAN-design hospital, which is smaller compared to Moose Jaw Union Hospital, Higgins said people must know how that size reduction will impact what the new hospital includes.

“What does that mean? Thirty per cent less beds? Thirty per cent less staff? Thirty per cent less capacity and services offered? That is unacceptable,” she said.

According to Michelson, the fact the new hospital is LEAN does not mean it’s reducing what it offers the health region. Rather, he said it means the new hospital will be more advanced.

“It will completely have all of the services and more than what we now have with our present hospital, and it will be state of the art with the LEAD design and will serve the people of Moose Jaw and Five Hills Health Region.”

Higgins noted the government never even mentioned the local hospital project in this year’s provincial budget.

Moose Jaw North PC Party candidate Rick Swenson said the normal process for building a new hospital would be to include it in the budget. Swenson said putting it on the budget allows the government to measure such a project against the other needs in the province.

He believes Moose Jaw needs a stronger voice in the legislature to push the local priorities forward.

Michelson said the recent hospital announcement pertains to the fact the government is getting a new hospital for Moose Jaw, but the details still need to be worked out regarding the project.

“Now, we’re into the design phase.”

Someone from the audience asked Moose Jaw Wakamow Saskatchewan Party candidate Greg Lawrence where the current mental health ward would go in the new hospital, or if it would stay at the current hospital.

Lawrence said there are no blueprints yet regarding the new hospital and the government doesn’t even know yet what will come of the current one.

“We’re leaving the design and implementation of the new hospital to the health-care professionals,” he said

According to Moose Jaw Wakamow PC Party candidate Tom Steen, Premier Brad Wall toured Moose Jaw Union Hospital prior to the last election and suggested there was a desperate need locally. Yet, Steen said, years went by with the Saskatchewan Party not addressing that need.

However, he said the blame isn’t just for the Saskatchewan Party government, but for the NDP one that preceded it.

“Where were you Deb?” Steen said.

Hassen said the Saskatchewan Party made a promise regarding a new hospital in Moose Jaw at the time of the last election and it took the government four years to come up with an announcement just prior to election.

At that point, someone from the audience pointed out the NDP had 16 years to build a new hospital for Moose Jaw when that party was the government.

There were no Green Party candidates in attendance at Tuesday’s forum.

 

Carter Haydu can be reached at 691-1265.

Organizations: Heritage Inn, Moose Jaw District Chamber of Commerce, Moose Jaw North Saskatchewan Party Times-Herald

Geographic location: Moose Jaw North, Friendly

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