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Healthcare top of the agenda at Burnaby City Council this week

Plus: Mayor proclaims poppy weeks ahead of Remembrance Day

Healthcare in Burnaby topped the agenda at council’s meeting on Oct. 30, with two delegations speaking on behalf of the Burnaby Hospital redevelopment project and the Burnaby Primary Care Network (PCN). 

Shortly after the council convened, the delegation from the hospital redevelopment project provided an update to council regarding the progress of the project. The delegation included chief project officer Noor Esmail, and Burnaby Hospital executive director Leanne Appleton. Esmail told council that the project’s first phase is nearing completion with concrete pours and construction on the buildings almost complete. Appleton added that many patient rooms will have a view of the Burnaby skyline with natural light to help promote healing and wellbeing. The delegates expressed a commitment to share regular updates and construction impacts with neighbours, adding that they will continue to host community open houses to provide updates and opportunities for questions and answers. The project’s next community open house is scheduled for Nov. 23. 

Mayor Mike Hurley expressed support for the project saying, “It’s long overdue. We’ve had world-class staff there for a very long time that really worked in buildings that were—let’s be honest—very below standard. So glad to see that the hospital’s being brought up to standard as the staff. And hopefully that staff will stay there a long time, and give great service to the 500,000 people that it serves in Burnaby and East Vancouver.” 

Rendering of the new Burnaby Hospital. Photo: Fraser Health

Councillors James Wang, Pietro Calendino, and Maita Santiago congratulated the delegation on the project update and the fact that it is currently proceeding according to plan. Santiago added that she was pleased to hear that patients will have windows with views of Burnaby. “I appreciate the small outdoor spaces that are there now and to see them expanding, I think it’s great,” she said.  

The evening’s second presentation was by a delegation from the Burnaby Primary Care Networks (PCN), headed by Dr. Baldev Sanghera, and Sherman Chan, who are both members of the PCN steering committee. The delegates presented a new collaborative health and wellbeing model that takes into account the full scope of health and wellbeing including the role of social support and community in patient health. According to Sanghera, the new model was created in collaboration with social agencies, the city, Fraser Health, the school district, and others.

 “What we are talking about is a community-defined, designed, and owned system for health and wellbeing,” Chan said.  

“When this system is realized, it will ensure everyone: seniors, the homeless, newcomers, immigrants, youth at risk, you and me, will all be able to get the right support,” Sanghera said. He added that the new model may attract new family doctors to come and work in Burnaby and will make Burnaby more attractive in hiring providers and for other businesses as well. 

Chan said the PCN plans to launch the new model with a one-day planning symposium in Burnaby and people will be able to join in person or via Zoom. A morning session will be dedicated to understanding the model and the afternoon will be dedicated to working sessions about each element of the model. PCN expects to begin implementing the new model by March 2024. The delegation then requested that the council formalize support with direction to staff to see ways to align resources for the planning and implementation of this model. 

Coun. Sav Dhaliwal expressed his support for the new model, “The current system isn’t working…If there’s something we can do ahead of people getting sick and to stop that from happening, I see a potential in the model…to educate people on how to look after themselves and to avail themselves of the services.” Dhaliwal added that in addition to improving health outcomes, this model will also help the city save money by preventing illness before it occurs rather than treating it later. 

Doctors with Burnaby Primary Care Networks (PCN). Photo: Burnaby PCN

Santiago asked the delegates why they thought Burnaby was a good choice for this type of model. Sanghera replied that Burnaby is the right size for this model, it already has a network of physicians and structures in place. “For too long healthcare in Burnaby has been reactive,” he added. By pushing the work “upstream” preventing people from getting sick in the first place and connecting them with the services they need, Burnaby residents can live their best lives, he said. He added that only 60% of people in Burnaby feel connected to their communities. 

“With this kind of network, which is a primary care network on steroids, we should be able to boost that up. Once you get people feeling connected to where they live, then they start availing themselves of the services that will enable them to be healthier and live a better life. We’ll get vaccination rates up, schools will be better, children’s health outcomes will be better, seniors’ outcomes will be better, social connectedness will be much better,” Sanghera said. 

After the delegation presentations, Mayor Hurley proclaimed Oct. 27-Nov. 11 as Poppy Weeks to honour members of the armed forces, emergency responders and RCMP officers killed in the line of duty. Steve Jeske from the Royal Canadian Legion spoke briefly about the importance of Remembrance Day and handed out poppies to everyone present at the meeting. For the remainder of the meeting, the council discussed rezoning applications and administrative reports and approved a charitable initiative to support Christmas events at the Burnaby Village Museum. 

This piece was made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.

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