Letter: Riverview could be an asset to health of the community

The Editor, Re. “Maples replacement is announced again” (Tri-City News, March 31).

The Editor,

Re. “Maples replacement is announced again” (Tri-City News, March 31).

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It is unfortunate The Tri-City News did not cover the event about Riverview Hospital at Douglas College on March 22, organized by the new Coalition for a Healthy Riverview, even though you had publicized it earlier.

The roughly 130 attendees were treated to in-depth information re. mental illness and why the Riverview lands should be kept as a mental health campus and arboretum rather than be sacrificed to real estate development, which the BC Liberals are ramming through despite overwhelming objections from the public. Their idea is to milk real estate development to fund future mental health care improvements, all wrapped in a First Nations flag. The arboretum would not survive.

This information provided at the event would, if more widely circulated, galvanize voters in the coming election and show clearly how failure to properly fund mental health has profound implications for our society at large.

After three speakers who reviewed 1) the multiple interactions between poverty and mental health; 2) the need for early intervention to save both extended misery and public funds; and 3) the unique value of the arboretum, called “world-class” and “a national treasure,” the main speaker, Dr. John Higenbottam, spoke at length about why the original dedication of these lands to mental health care must be retained.

In particular, he focused on a growing group of the mentally ill who cannot adequately be treated within the community because their cases are too complex and long-term — growing because they are revolving through acute care wards in local hospitals (which they clog unnecessarily) but are never properly diagnosed, medicated or treated. Some medicate themselves with dangerous drugs, complicating their treatment.

In addition to dealing with them appropriately at a new Riverview facility, other facilities could serve dementia patients and the addicted (other growing groups), and provide temporary housing.

Riverview would be an ideal location for a new Tri-Cities general hospital to ease pressure on Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster. It could also become an education, training and research centre. Some funding could be derived from a health and wellness business park offering support services. Some existing buildings could be retrofitted.

For all the money invested, reconstructing the Maples will add only 17 new beds. This government buys into trickle-down economics, and consistently fails to put people first — after wasteful bridges, highways and megaprojects.

To show support, you can contact the coalition, or sign its petition by going to change.org and searching “Riverview Hospital.”

Felix Thijssen, Coquitlam

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