3 min

Save St Paul’s

Don't let our Village hospital move away

Credit: Xtra West files

I heard the crack before I felt the impact. It was my fault, really. I took my eye off the ball for a second and some over-zealous first baseman tried to make a play at the plate. He missed. The ball hit me in the lower back instead. Hard.

It was summer, 1997. I was home in Montreal, playing softball in a co-ed league that generally cared more about sneaking its king cans of beer onto the field than scoring runs. But these were the playoffs, and playoffs can make people strange.

When the pain hit, a few seconds later, I stoically grabbed an ice pack and shoved it down my shorts. By the time I arrived at my partner’s place an hour later, I wasn’t feeling so stoic.

Ramona took one look at me and called a friend for some medical advice. By then, the pain had spread down my legs. I don’t remember much from that night. I remember taking a taxi to the Montreal General Hospital. I remember peeing in a cup. I remember learning that pain radiates and that I was going to be just fine. A little sore, but fine.

And I remember the love of my life hunting frantically for a blazer before we left for the hospital.

That’s right, a blazer.

You see, Ramona thought she needed to look respectable so the hospital wouldn’t doubt her important status in my life. And she thought a blazer might just balance the otherwise obvious dykeliness of her appearance-and our relationship.

Anything to avoid hassle and humiliation while her lover is potentially in danger. I would do the same.

But the great thing is, I no longer have to. Because my sweetie and I moved to Vancouver three years ago, to the West End to be precise. And as a result, we now have a gay-friendly hospital right in our very own Village.

It makes a real difference. Last year, when the love of my life needed some immediate care, I did not stop to worry about what I was wearing. We just took the bus up the hill, walked into emergency and registered her at the front desk. I stood by her and everyone treated me like her partner, without hesitation. The nurses even let me accompany Ramona into the observation area and lie down next to her in the bed she was assigned. When the doctor arrived, he smiled brightly at us both and asked, “So which one of you is the patient?”

No blazer required.

Granted, St Paul’s isn’t prefect. After all, administrators only recently changed their forms to officially recognize same-sex partners as next of kin. But overall, it has a very good, gay-friendly reputation-particularly in its highly regarded AIDS ward.

So you can imagine how I felt last fall when word surfaced that St Paul’s might be leaving the Village for a new site on the False Creek Flats.

My concern intensified last month when Xtra West reporter Jeremy Hainsworth uncovered that St Paul’s had already progressed from contemplation to action and actually purchased the site at False Creek.

Translation: we might be about to lose our hospital. And I, for one, don’t want to see it go.

So I called Shaf Hussain, the spokesperson for Providence Health Care, which owns and runs St Paul’s. He assured me that nothing has been decided yet.

Providence is going to “renew” St Paul’s in some way in the next decade, he explained, but that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily going to move.

Providence is examining two possibilities right now, he continued. Option one: “redevelop” the existing Burrard St site. Option two: move to the False Creek Flats. Neither one has been decided yet, Hussain reiterated.

Right now the Providence team is drawing up business plans for each scenario which they will then present to the Ministry of Health this fall.

“You mean it’s up to the government?” I asked.

Yes, he replied. Though Providence is an independent Catholic organization, it relies on government funding to operate its hospitals. And that means the “government will have the final say” on whether St Paul’s stays or goes.

I see. Well, I guess that means we have a couple of months to tell our MLAs what we think of a hospital-less Village.

I mean, I could be alone in this, but I don’t want to have to trek across town in my best blazer next time my sweetie needs me by her side.

Do you?

Robin Perelle is Acting Editor for Xtra.