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White Rock mayor blasts tweet claiming McCallum averted maternity ward closure

Darryl Walker credits political pressure applied by mothers’ group
White Rock Mayor Darryl Walker said a Safe Surrey Coalition tweet disrespects hard work by mothers and expecting mothers to avert a temporary closure of Peace Arch Hospital’s maternity ward. File photo

White Rock Mayor Darryl Walker said he is pleased that on Thursday (Jan. 20) Fraser Health reversed its decision to close the Peace Arch Hospital maternity ward temporarily and divert births to Langley Memorial Hospital.

But he’s not so pleased with a tweet from Safe Surrey Coalition, later that afternoon, that implies sole credit for the latest decision belongs to Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum.

“If you want to politick – go ahead and politick,” Walker said.

But he noted the post rankled because it ignores the political pressure and raised awareness of the imminent closure brought to bear by an ad-hoc group of mothers and expecting mothers, and others in the community who shared their concerns.

“Those women who organized the protests deserve the respect of the community. (A statement like this) takes respect away from them.”

The Thursday afternoon post – headlined ‘Mayor Doug McCallum delivers for Surrey residents once again’ – goes on to say that “prompted by Mayor McCallum’s intervention, the Fraser Health Authority has just announced a reversal in the decision to temporarily close the Peace Arch Hospital maternity ward.”

Work by the mothers group, both online and through traditional media, had led to a Thursday morning protest, across 16 Avenue from the hospital, that drew some 75 people.

READ ALSO: Fraser Health reverses decision to close Peace Arch Hospital maternity

In addition to Walker, others who attended to show their support for the group included Surrey-White Rock MLA Trevor Halford, White Rock Coun. David Chesney and former White Rock mayor, MP and MLA Gordie Hogg.

“There wasn’t one representative of Surrey there,” Walker said, noting that while he had been told that McCallum wanted to attend, the Surrey mayor had been notable by his absence.

“With all due respect, I know the man is busy and I don’t doubt he made a few phone calls,” he said. “But he didn’t win the war.”

Walker said he had received at least 50 letters from residents about the impending closure of the maternity ward and had expressed his own concerns.

He added he had received a personal call from Fraser Health president and CEO Dr. Victoria Lee, just prior to Thursday’s announcement, to let him know that a solution to an ongoing shortage of pediatricians had been found.

READ ALSO: Decision to close Peace Arch Hospital maternity ward reversed

Fraser Health had cited the shortage of pediatricians – who assist with high-risk pregnancies, and in case of complications – as a reason for diverting planned births to Langley.

Walker said his immediate priority – together with Halford and Hogg – was to check with the women who organized the protests to “make sure they have what they need,” before drafting a letter of thanks for the reversal to Lee.

He said he expected a second protest planned for Saturday would be called off in light of the latest decision.

Walker added that he was heartened to see the involvement of the community – including many who have contributed to fundraising by the Peace Arch Hospital Foundation – in calling for a strong Fraser Health commitment to the maternity ward.

“These were young mothers, expecting mothers – it was really a community rally,” he said, noting that White Rock residents have always responded forcefully to perceptions that they are being denied a voice in decisions that affect them.

“This is what a community is all about,” he said. “This is why White Rock became a city in the first place – and why it has a hospital.”

A call requesting comment was forwarded to McCallum, but not returned by Friday afternoon.

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About the Author: Alex Browne

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