Did you know that B.C. has its own controversy over “values?” In Quebec the PQ government intends to discriminate against religious minorities — in particular Muslims. In B.C. the Liberal government of Premier Christy Clark, and Premier Gordon Campbell before her, along with previous governments, has consistently discriminated against the mentally ill, or at best “tolerated” them, even when they were bused into this province free, thanks to Premier Ralph Klein of Alberta. Now, the Lower Mainland has a full-blown mental-health crisis on its hands. If the mentally ill were again being served by Riverview Hospital, then quite likely the violence on the city streets of Vancouver would not be increasing. And maybe, since the start of the year, St. Paul’s Hospital, in the heart of Vancouver, would not be seeing nearly a 50-per-cent-increase in the number of individuals with either severe mental-health illnesses or addiction problems.
Completely downsizing Riverview Hospital and then closing it was a mistake, born of arrogance and misguided judgment — skewed by Hollywood’s “cuckoo’s nest” mentality and by Ronald Reagan’s neo-conservatism. Christy Clark’s veto of the UBCM proposal to reopen Riverview was simply a brazen exercise in political power, with smiles, fresh off her enhanced mandate. Given the nature of her party line, she also is probably still inclined to see mental illness entirely as an “individual” problem that has nothing at all to do with “society.”
This is why “society” is obliged to owe the mentally ill nothing, neither a hospital nor the dignity of employment. When governments eliminate hospitals they do not eliminate illnesses. Downsizing is supposed to be “cost-effective,” but it is also a denial of state responsibility. The severely mentally ill often have any number of concurrent disorders beyond the skills of Community Living workers. Having the resources of a centralized and specialized hospital offers peace of mind to those who have little or no peace of mind, and it boils down to a matter of fairness to the underrepresented, which is a good for society. In other words, it’s nuts not to have Riverview Hospital, but then again we already know provincial political leaders to be cuckoo.
Joerge Dyrkton is an Anmore resident.
© Copyright 2013