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REPORTING · 21st July 2011
Walter McFarlane
The Kitimat Health Advocacy Group met for their Annual General Meeting on June 26th. Changes were proposed at earlier meetings to the way which KHAG does business. These recommendations came from people sitting around their table as well as from consultations with NHA. The first changes made were changes to the constitution, they read:

“Be it further resolved that the Kitimat health advocacy group advocate for improved community health services over time reflecting the changing needs of our community and That the Kitimat Health Advocacy Group be recognized as the Advisory Council for our community and that health authorities be requested to consult with KHAG prior to establishing local health service plans or for making changes to local health care services,” read chair of KHAG, Rob Goffinet.

He explained KHAG was founded to acquire and retain Medical Personnel for the Kitimat General Hospital. It was their focus, but the crisis of the day, low staffing, had passed. After the group was constituted, they began advocating for services which was not specified in their constitution. It was recently brought to the attention of KHAG by Northern Health Authority (NHA), that they have to adjust their constitution for the Health Authority to properly deal with them.

Councillor Feldhoff clarified this would turn KHAG into both an advocacy and advisory Council on Health for the Community. This motion was carried unanimously.

Their yearly elections came next chaired by Mayor Joanne Monaghan. Rob Goffinet retained his position of Chair, Dr. Derrick Carstens retained his position as Treasurer and Anne Beresford retained her position as Secretary, making up the three directorship positions.

With the election out of the way, they moved onto the changes which have been proposed by the membership over the last few months. The first recommendation was to create a position for a director to organize meetings between Northern Health and the community in the future.

The second recommendation was to have a more official defined membership for KHAG, no different from what they have at this time, but recorded. It was recommended this membership be smaller then the larger groups and be representatives of organizations in the community. Goffinet checked off who was already attending the meetings as he went through this recommendation.

“With this slightly more defined membership around the KHAG table each meeting, just like now, we hope that interested members of the community that wish to share concerns about health matters would relay their concerns through the directors, through the membership or, if they wish, they could do what they did in the past, they could speak to the membership by getting on our agenda at any time,” said Goffinet.

He added individual cases would not be dealt with around the KHAG table but would be referred to NHA or Kitimat General Hospital. General revolving around health Care problems in Kitimat would be accepted around the KHAG Table.

It was pointed out meetings of KHAG were not advertised very well so concerned citizens were often unaware of the meetings. Mayor Joanne Monaghan said she was taking concerns from people to Northern Health.

It was also pointed by a member of the community, if the meetings were advertised, they might have more people then they have space for. An open meeting in the fall which was open to the public would be good and better if Northern Health representatives would be there as well.

The third recommendation was for five meetings a year rather then ten meetings a year. Directors would meet between meetings and can call general meetings if issues become apparent. The final decision was to have five general meetings and an Annual General Meeting in June.

The fourth recommendation concerned communications from the meetings. “The directors agreed with the proposal that for more open and unencumbered discussion, we would not have the press at our table. KHAG directors would report out from any meetings by giving a press release or giving interviews to the media,” read Goffinet.

He added the minutes of the meeting would be distributed to individuals, including the media, rather then just to the members. Goffinet explained people have said having the press at the table could change the discussion. He also pointed out the media has not report on items when the membership at the KHAG table has requested confidentiality.

Some citizens wanted to work with the press in the future as they have worked together in the past. However, on the other hand, it was pointed out by other individuals that there were some people who were not sitting around the table who might be there if the media were not present, one individual suggested NHA was counted among these as they rarely showing up at the meetings lately.

Two individuals did not have a problem with the press. One of them suggested having the in camera meetings without the press. “A lot of people would prefer the press to be here because then they know, besides this board, someone else is hearing what they want to say as well,” she said.

A motion was made to allow the press to continue to attend the meeting but would leave for ‘in camera’ discussions. It was carried with no dissenting votes. Onto the final point, Goffinet expressed there was no reason to change the name of the group.

There was no further discussion on these points. The report was accepted as amended without dissention. The next meeting will be held on September 10th, at 10:00 Am in the Kitimat Public Library.