Cowichan hospital decision needs transparency

Officials need to be open with the public about the process for choosing the new Cowichan District Hospital site.

One thing is virtually guaranteed about the new Cowichan District Hospital site: it won’t be unanimously endorsed by everyone.

That’s because the site cannot be chosen in a vacuum and the perfect location likely doesn’t exist.

Which makes it crucial that the public understands what the needs of the hospital are, what options are out there and that NIMBYism is not an option.

There are only so many properties big enough, accessible enough and near enough to the Duncan core to qualify. And not all of them are going to be for sale.

The terms of reference for the hospital site are good ones.

Ideally, there is a property available above the flood plain within five or 10 minutes from the Duncan downtown core with safe, convenient access to either Highway 1 or Highway 18. Ideally, the site is in a quiet area outside the ALR and is not being currently used. Ideally, the site has all the physical attributes that make it suitable for building and servicing, and neighbours that are compatible with a hospital.

Once you check all those boxes, you’ll be lucky if you have more than a handful of choices in front of you. In fact, you may be forced to consider sites that are lacking in one or more of those areas.

Officials need to be open with the public about this process. They are off to a good start with their expressions of interest. The transparency should continue with a list of sites that are put forward, followed by the lists of the pluses and minuses of each site.

Co-operation and consensus are crucial here — not just within the boardrooms and discussion groups, but within the community as a whole.

This tough decision should bind the community, not bend it.

—Cowichan News Leader Pictorial