© Star photo by Geraldine Brophy
A crowd shot from Thursday night‚Äôs public meeting at Greenwood Inn and Suites.
CORNER BROOK Deer Lake Mayor Dean Ball believes the citizens committee advocating for the best regional hospital possible can definitely have an influence on the decision government will make regarding the facility.
The mayor was among the 250 or so people who attended a public meeting hosted by the committee in Corner Brook Thursday night.
He addressed the crowd and gave the committee his town‚Äôs backing. In an interview Friday, Ball said this should be an important cause for every citizen of every community right across western Newfoundland.
‚ÄúThe town of Deer Lake has just as much on the table as any part of western Newfoundland and Labrador,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúWe‚Äôre all in this together and I think, if we stood united, we could probably convince the province to do this right, now.‚ÄĚ
Ball, brother of Liberal Party leader Dwight Ball, was impressed with the turnout for the meeting, given the fact it had to be postponed from Wednesday because of weather, which continued to hamper travel Thursday.
‚ÄúI really think this is a force to be reckoned with,‚ÄĚ he said of the committee‚Äôs work. ‚ÄúThe province better look out. (The committee has) got a group of people who are organized and who are going to want answers and want to be a part of decisions.‚ÄĚ
The main thing to keep in mind, said Ball, is that the hospital has to be state-of-the-art when it opens, not just at the planning stage years before it welcomes its first patients. He supports it having a cardiac unit and a cancer treatment facility, although the province has said the hospital will not have a radiation treatment centre.
‚ÄúWe have to be thinking far enough ahead that, once this hospital is finished, we can‚Äôt have any regrets,‚ÄĚ he said.
Massey Drive Mayor Gord Davis also spoke at the meeting. On Friday, he reiterated his call for all communities to have more of a say in the planning process.
Davis said the new hospital offers an opportunity to expand health services currently available to the residents of western Newfoundland and Labrador. With Health and Community Services Minister Susan Sullivan expected to meet with Corner Brook city council and the hospital committee, Davis said it‚Äôs crucial other communities are also heard.
‚ÄúWe‚Äôre hoping when Minister Sullivan comes out, whether it‚Äôs in the next week or two, she meets with representatives from all of the region‚Äôs communities and not just the city of Corner Brook,‚ÄĚ he said.
Corner Brook‚Äôs city council and the committee did urge all other communities to write their MHAs and Sullivan to express their views on the hospital. Massey Drive and Deer Lake will certainly be doing that, according to their respective mayors.
Corner Brook Mayor Charles Pender said he had a previously scheduled meeting Thursday night and could not attend the hospital meeting. There were three city councillors at the meeting and council will meet with the hospital committee executive prior to meeting with Sullivan later this month.
Pender said the city does have some concerns that would be specific to Corner Brook when he and council meet with Sullivan. He doesn‚Äôt think those other communities would be interested in discussing Corner Brook‚Äôs concerns about things such as providing water and sewer services to the hospital.
‚ÄúI think they may be more concerned about the health services that are going to be provided,‚ÄĚ said Pender.
The Great Humber Joint Council could provide a collective voice for the municipalities under its umbrella, added Pender.
Coun. Tony Buckle had the new hospital at the top of his priority list when running for Corner Brook city council in 2013. He attended Thursday‚Äôs meeting and agreed this is much bigger than a Corner Brook issue. He believes the meeting has helped push the issue a little further into the spotlight and hopes the province will pay attention to what citizens are saying about the plan.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs time to get this hospital started,‚ÄĚ said Buckle. ‚ÄúWe‚Äôve got to get it going to help benefit everyone in the western region ... At the next meeting we have, I‚Äôd like to see 2,000 people there instead of 250. That‚Äôs the only way we‚Äôre going to get action here.‚ÄĚ
Buckle is looking forward to the meeting with Sullivan.
‚ÄúI‚Äôm ready to ask Minister Sullivan some questions, and I hope she has the right answers,‚ÄĚ he said.