The Governance Board of the DHB met Thursday and, in its normal sotto voce* style, discussed the fate of two key public health facilities.

First up was the Wellesley Road Health Centre.

During review of the Health Board’s capital expenditure budget, Board member Kevin Atkinson brought up the fate of the Health Centre in Napier and associated public expectations (see BayBuzz: Amputate that leg?). The Board was looking at a capital investment “wish list” totaling over $35 million for the next three years (which includes $1.3 million in deferred maintenance!), with apparently only about $23 million in funding available.

Atkinson observed that, faced with such a funding gap, it was inconceivable that public health services provided now from the Wellesley Centre could be moved to the former Napier Hospital site, as recently clamoured for at a recent community forum hosted by MP Chris Tremain and Mayor Barbara Arnott. He suggested that it was best for the Board to signal now to the community that this option was not on the table.

Board member Diana Kirton seconded his emotion, calling the option of moving services to Napier Hill a “no go-er.” “No chance of anything happening on the Hill,”  she said. Kirton cited advantages of the present site in terms of central location, public transport and indigent access.

The Board, including Sir John Anderson, nodded its agreement with her “no go-er” assessment.

Whether the Wellesley Centre is refurbished under a re-negotiated lease, or services are ultimately moved elsewhere, it’s absolutely clear that none of the most pertinent elected officials, Tremain and Arnott included, is remotely interested in a Napier Hill option.

At today’s DHB meeting, with local media present to record the surgery, that leg was effectively amputated! And rightly so. All parties, the public not the least, need to move on to consider realistic alternatives.

The second facility to be discussed was the Mental Health Centre, which by all accounts sounds Dickensian. Board member Kirton took the lead on this one, pleading the case for major improvement of the facility. The Board seemed sympathetic, but there didn’t appear to be a clear solution on this one … at least none that the public in attendance could hear.*

BayBuzz isn’t up to speed on the condition of the Mental Health Centre. Perhaps a photo expedition is called for! We’ll be returning to this issue.

Tom Belford

*In a splendid illustration of its disinterest in public participation, the Health Board, month after month, despite complaints from the public at virtually every meeting, holds its discussions in a whisper, with no assistance from a sound system. At each meeting, someone in the public’s bleacher seats yells — “Can’t hear!” There’s some scurrying around and a few moments of equipment fiddling, followed by — “It’s turned on … must not be working.” So the meeting continues, voices are raised a bit, but soon revert to whispers. Somewhere in that $35 million capital budget — if there’s any concern to find it — there must be a few dollars for a working sound system!

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