The Fraser Health Authority is facing deep cuts to meet a $160-million funding shortfall, B.C.’s New Democrats alleged yesterday.

NDP health critic Adrian Dix said the health authority could close five-and-a-half operating rooms and reduce elective surgeries by 10 per cent.

The health authority however, responded by saying the NDP’s claims are “misleading” and based on a draft planning document.

The draft strategy was leaked to Dix. It includes:
• downgrading 200 acute care beds.
• reducing elective surgeries by 10 per cent by closing up to five-and-a-half operating rooms.
• consolidating maternity and pediatric services that could include the possible closure of Langley’s Memorial pediatric unit and Peace Arch’s maternity unit.
• ending $134,000 in annual funding for the Canadian National Institute for the Blind.
• downgrading the Mission Memorial emergency room into an urgent care centre.
• consolidating diabetes programs in Mission and Delta.

“These kinds of major cuts represent a crisis in a health authority where the population is growing so dramatically,” Dix said.

The measures, he added, were supposed to have been announced on July 13.

But a decision was made to “finesse and hide” them, Dix said.

David Plug, a spokesman for Fraser Health, said the health authority is looking at options and it is the role of the communications department to answer potentially tricky questions.

“We’ve announced many things going ahead, other decisions we’ve decided to change,” Plug said.

The diabetes programs in Mission and Delta are not being consolidated, he said. There is, however, a service review of pediatric and maternity services underway.

“We’re doing as much as we can to protect patient care,” said Plug. “Most of the savings will be found in ways that are invisible to the public.”

The health authority, he said, is receiving record funding from the province, but is faced with the ever-rising costs of providing care.

Fraser Health does have a shortfall and is planning to balance the budget, Plug said.

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