During his speech at the opening of the new Kootenay Lake Hospital emergency room on Wednesday

During his speech at the opening of the new Kootenay Lake Hospital emergency room on Wednesday

May you never need to visit

It will go down as one of the oddest, yet most fitting ends to a speech Nelson has ever seen.

It will go down as one of the oddest, yet most fitting ends to a speech this community has ever seen.

As he wrapped up his time at the podium before more than 100 people packed into the new Kootenay Lake Hospital emergency room, Dr. Rahul Khosla said: “I hope to never see any of you in here again.” The chief of emergency medicine said it with a smile, but he sincerely meant it.

Emergency rooms are generally not places people gather for joyous occasions. Just the opposite. But after more than three years of construction and decades of struggle for a better health facility on the hill, Wednesday afternoon was truly a time to celebrate.

The $15 million expansion and renovation project is shiny, new and stocked with the most up to date equipment. When patients start to file through the doors next week, the Kootenay Lake Hospital ER will go from the dark ages to the modern age.

But this story is about more than new gadgets and more space. It’s about patience and political will. It’s about lost hope and courage to move ahead despite obstacles.

When the Liberal government went on its cost-cutting rampage in the early 2000s, it was a tumultuous time in Nelson. In the dying days of the last NDP era, that desperate government promised us the Taj Mahal of small town medical facilities. That was quickly yanked by the Liberals, as were several other prized services like access to surgeons. It was bleak times in our corner of the West Kootenay.

The new ER certainly does not right all the wrongs done by the Liberals a decade ago, but it does show that taking baby steps and working with government can produce results. This investment by the province was accomplished by the region working together in unison. It took strong local leadership to show the people in Victoria that we truly care about the health of all our residents.

Great health care is more about the people on the frontlines than the facility, but the new ER is undoubtably an historic accomplishment. And may you never need to visit it.