Nearly a month after Decafnation published the first of four articles that spotlighted problems at the new Comox Valley Hospital, the Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA) has issued a press release in response.

The VIHA statement released on Feb. 2 says, in part:

“Recently, there have been public statements focused on the North Island Hospital Comox Valley campus. While we know there are inaccuracies in some of these statements, we also acknowledge there are truths.

“This is a normal part of a change of this magnitude and we want to assure our staff, physician partners, patients, volunteers and the communities that the hospital serves, that we are listening and working very hard to make necessary improvements.”

These sentences contain several troubling statements.

First, the VIHA release repeats a claim by CVH Medical Director Dr. Jeff Beselt made to a reporter for 98.9 The GOAT that the first Decafnation article published on Jan. 15 wasn’t entirely accurate.

Decafnation immediately made repeated requests for Beselt to specify those inaccuracies. Those requests were ignored until this week.

But the errors Beselt points out have nothing to do with any of the serious issues raised in our four-part series.

Here are the three errors in the first article to which Beselt says he was referring:

1 — The cost of the Comox Valley Hospital was $331.7 million, not $350 million. We rounded up the original estimate. We’ve also requested data on any cost overruns, which are not uncommon in construction projects.

2 — The hospital building is not ‘owned’ by Tandem Health. Beselt himself errs here. We did notreport the building is “owned” by Tandem. We said the building is “leased” from Tandem. It is more correct to say the building is ‘managed’ by Tandem Health under a 30-year operating agreement. It’s interesting to note that VIHA pays Tandem Health a monthly fee for these management services.

3 — Decafnation stated that St. Joseph’s General Hospital was overcapacity on the day it closed. Beselt says that St. Joe’s was not overcapacity on that day because patient numbers were reduced for purposes of the move to the new hospital.

He’s correct for the reason he states. But the point was that St. Joe’s had been overcapacity frequently for several years before the move — a result of having to place people in acute care beds that no longer need that level of care. Further, it was known on the day St. Joe’s closed, and during the construction of CVH, that the roughly 30-40 percent of patients needing an alternate level of care (ALC) would transfer over.

It is Decafnation’s policy to correct errors of fact quickly, so each of the articles now make note of these three corrections and one other similar error in the third article of the series.

The more troubling statement in the VIHA release is that the problems Decafnation has reported are “… a normal part of change of this magnitude ….”

It’s true that some of the issues, including staff morale, relate to former St. Joseph’s staff members habituating to the VIHA culture, and our articles reported on that.

But that doesn’t account for all of the specific problems we have identified, such as not planning for overcapacity, not recognizing that the spacious floor plan would require higher staffing levels, forgetting to include whole departments and later squeezing other departments to fit them in and not providing sufficient residential bed capacity and adequate access to other services for unpaid caregivers in the Comox Valley.

Not to mention failed heliport planning at both Comox Valley and Campbell River sites.

We could go on, but these hardly seem like “normal” parts of a well-considered planning processes. Especially when our sources say they repeatedly raised these and other specific concerns in public and employee meetings during the planning stage.

Did VIHA management simply not listen carefully to its front-line workers during the planning process? VIHA says it did, but there’s a large contingent of north Island hospital employees who strongly disagree.

The VIHA release also says it is “working hard to make necessary improvements.” We reported that in our series, too, and hope to someday see the results of that effort.

But neither Beselt or other VIHA executives would say what specific actions they have taken or plan to take. Decafnation would love to report on those measures and how they have mitigated some of the employees’ uneasiness and mistrust.

The fact is, Decafnation accumulated a multitude of information about which the taxpaying public should be concerned. We only published the portion of this information that we could independently verify and collaborate.

Following publication of the series, readers have expressed further concerns and also related patient experiences relevant to the issues raised in our articles, which we also have not published.

Starting today, however, Decafnation is publishing a selection of those observations. The point is to illustrate the breadth and variety of concerns about the building, changed procedures and how VIHA has managed the transition from St. Joseph’s.

We encourage readers to continue sharing their comments on this website or on our Facebook page.

We also encourage VIHA to not gloss over these concerns or dismiss them in public statements by trying to discredit sincere reporting. We hope instead that VIHA undertakes corrective measures that specifically address overcapacity, understaffing, low morale, health care worker safety, excessive overtime and other issues.

North Island communities deserve a great hospital. Decafnation will support every real effort to achieve that goal. George Le Masurier

DecafNation