MPs invite Harper to tour Royal Columbian

The Record, 25 January 2012 By Theresa McManus

New Westminster's members of Parliament are inviting Prime Minister Stephen Harper to tour Royal Columbian Hospital.

While premiers gathered in Victoria recently to discuss federal transfers for health care, New Westminster-Coquitlam NDP MP Fin Donnelly and Burnaby-New Westminster NDP MP Peter Julian challenged Harper and federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq to tour Royal Columbian Hospital.

The hospital made national headlines in March 2011 when overflow emergency room patients were treated in the hospital's Tim Hortons cafeteria. Earlier this month, the hospital made news again when it placed emergency patients in the lobby.

"The situation at Royal Columbian has now gone beyond hallway health care; obviously they've run out of hallways," Donnelly said in a press release. "I challenge the prime minister and federal health minister to visit Royal Columbian and see the situation first hand."

The members of Parliament issued the invitation Jan. 16, while premiers and territorial leaders were in Victoria for the Council of the Federation conference, which included two days of meetings about health care. Donnelly and Julian, who joined B.C. NDP leader Adrian Dix and local MLAs for a tour of the hospital last month, are now renewing their calls for the Conservative government to bring relief to the situation at Royal Columbian by working with the province to hire more doctors, nurses and front line workers, to reduce wait times and to approve the hospital's new tower expansion project.

"Since the closure of St. Mary's hospital in New Westminster, Royal Columbian has taken on the overflow," Julian said. "We need real leadership from the federal government to address the challenges at Royal Columbian."

The Conservatives have announced they would start tying health transfers to economic growth and inflation in 2016/17 and have introduced a per capita funding formula.

According Donnelly and Julian, the notion of a per capita funding formula has been widely criticized in B.C. because the province has a disproportionately high number of seniors who incur higher medical costs.

The Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page warned the Conservative government's reduction in the rate of growth to health transfers could threaten the sustainability of medicare and force provinces to cut vital services.

That sentiment was echoed by several premiers attending the Council of the Federation meetings.

© New West Record