Meili back in Battlefords, health care a prime concern

Provincial NDP leader Ryan Meili has been spending making frequent appearances in the Battlefords.

The opposition leader was in North Battleford again Thursday, where he met Mayor Ryan Bater and some members of council in the afternoon. Among the topics that came up, Meili said, was the recently signed agreement between North Battleford, Battleford and area First Nations.

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They also talked about the “confluence” of poverty, crime and addictions in the city, he said.

Earlier in the day, Meili also visited Battlefords District Care Centre and Saskatchewan Hospital North Battleford. Meili said his Sask. Hospital visit was to learn more about the care being delivered and about “the ongoing challenges” regarding the construction and reparations at the facility.

After meeting the mayor and council, Meili and Battlefords NDP candidate Amber Stewart paid a visit to the News-Optimist offices, to talk about issues facing the area.

Health care challenges was one topic. On the Battlefords District Care Centre, Meili said “we know that’s a facility that has been identified now for several years as needing some major maintenance, renovation and investment – wondering when we’re going to see that investment from this government, and recognizing that that’s symptomatic of a larger infrastructure deficit throughout health care that we think it’s time to get ahead of. Start making investments, put people to work in our struggling construction industry." 

Regarding Sask. Hospital, Meili said their visit to the facility confirmed what they already knew – that the “roof repair is still ongoing, it hasn’t been completed,” and that “the water is still not ready to be potable and a large number of units are not being used due to shower leaks and other issues.”

Meili also pointed to the freedom of information emails released by the party this week, which he said pointed to the province knowing about the issues with the roof.

“The government actually identified these problems as potential issues early on in the process, made it clear to the contractor and they went ahead and did this. It really seems like this was rushed forward with more attention to the ribbon cutting and the big announcement than making sure it was done right from the beginning.”

Meili was unimpressed with minister Gord Wyant’s statement that was released Thursday regarding the Sask. Hospital audit. 

“This is taking a really long time for us to get any clear answers. The only reason that anyone knows about the fact you can’t drink the water, the units that have been closed down because of shower leaks, the other units that have been shut down due to other leaks, is because of another kind of leak, which is people coming to their union or speaking to us directly, and eventually that getting to the press. All of this has being kept as quiet as possible, so it’s pretty unimpressive they’re still giving us very little in terms of a true accounting of all the problems, and just sort of kicking this down the road.”

Meili also questioned the contract. “It makes no sense to me that the terms of the contract would not allow them to say don’t proceed with that method of dealing with this if that problem is there. It makes me wonder if there is something in the P3 contract that actually prevents the government from having any influence once that contract’s been granted.”

“I would like to just see everything out in the open,” was the reaction of candidate Stewart.

“At this point we know there’s lots of issues, so let’s just put it all out on the table, so we can address it and fix it and move forward.” 

She also voiced concern for the welfare of those patients who reside inside the hospital full time.

“This is a home for those people and giving them the best possible home is a priority.”

Meili also addressed a common refrain heard from Sask. Party MLAs and cabinet ministers – that if the NDP had been in government, Sask. Hospital would not have been built.

Meili pointed out that there were two problems: “this project actually started under Len Taylor, so people in North Battleford know that that’s not true.”

“Second, I don’t know that ‘it took us 13 years to do it and we didn’t do a very good job, but at least we built it’ is the strength of argument that Mr. (Jim) Reiter (minister of Health) thinks it is.”

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