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Delta Hospital in need of advocacy group

Delta is currently without a hospital advocacy group willing to take on the Fraser Health Authority, something some say should change.

Delta is currently without a hospital advocacy group willing to take on the Fraser Health Authority, something some say should change.

The Delta Hospital Foundation and Delta Hospital Auxiliary continue to be tremendous fundraising arms for the hospital, but the last group to deal with hospital concerns and complaints was supposed to be the Delta Healthcare Association. That group began with much optimism but faded a few years ago.

It was 2004 when Fraser Health and others announced the formation of the group that was supposed to meet regularly with the health authority.

The group's genesis came about earlier in the decade when many residents were in an uproar following the health region's announcement of major cuts for Delta Hospital, including overnight closure of the emergency ward.

Delta council was a vocal force lobbying for the hospital at that galvanizing time. Two local groups would also emerge as a sounding board for the community - the Delta Health Coalition and Save Delta Hospital Society, the latter collecting a 31,000name petition to pressure government.

Fraser Health would go on to make a number of cuts but backed off from closing the emergency department.

Since then things have changed, primarily for the better. The hospital's acute beds were restored and expanded, a CT scanner was added and the emergency department increased in size. The hospital foundation and auxiliary have raised millions for new equipment and amenities.

However, following a recent story published in the Optimist about a Ladner family doctor upset about long wait times for test results at the hospital, the question was posed why the healthcare association, or another advocacy group, is no longer active in the community to raise such issues.

Former auxiliary president Elaine Canning, who was a member of the healthcare association board, said as far as she knew the association decided to dissolve. She said it was due to a lack of interest from the community because the threat to the hospital had passed and improvements had taken place.

"All of us on the (hospital) auxiliary, we'll never let our guard down, but there comes a point when you have to move on. There's been enormous changes at Fraser Health," she said.

Canning said there's still enough concern and interest within the community when it comes to the hospital, which could be seen when Fraser Health CAO Dr. Nigel Murray made a presentation in Tsawwassen a couple of months ago and fielded some tough questions. Canning was one of those questioners, asking about the possibility of having kidney dialysis services available closer to home so residents, especially seniors, didn't have to make their way to Surrey.

Canning believes another big issue that's going to have to be addressed is transportation for a growing number of older people requiring specialized treatments at so-called "centres of excellence."

Former Save Delta Hospital Society member Doug Massey said the foundation and auxiliary do a tremendous job as fundraising groups, but can't be expected to also vet complaints about health care issues.

Massey, who came up with a community Declaration of Dependence for the hospital, which was endorsed by Delta council, said it's concerning there's no advocacy/lobby group that can meet with the health authority and get answers.

"A problem with the healthcare association was Fraser Health set its mandate and it wasn't seen as independent. It was controlled by Fraser Health," he said.

Delta South MLA Vicki Huntington noted the idea of having a Delta advocacy group to get answers about health care issues is still a good one.

The hospital recently underwent a new long-term service plan review, which was approved by the health region. That Master Concept Plan will see both short-and long-term improvements in services once funding is found.

The first to get underway is a larger diagnostic imaging wing and laboratory.

That project will cost well over $11 million, with the foundation committing over $7 million.

sgyarmati@delta-optimist.com