COLUMN: Perfect timing for out-of-town editor

Nakusp hospital announcement made for big news day

The ‘off-Broadway’ production I viewed from the front row in Nakusp on Friday was a much-anticipated event with robust applause.

The Arrow Lakes Hospital, located a few blocks east of Nakusp’s Broadway Street, was the setting for the announcement of $2.1 million in funding to renovate the hospital’s emergency ward.

The enthusiastic ovations for Nakusp Mayor Karen Hamling and the other four speakers from those gathered for the press conference clearly indicated that the project was long overdue.

With apologies to Hamling and the other stakeholders, the timing couldn’t have been better for this scribe.

As the Nelson-based editor of this paper I scheduled weeks earlier that I would drive up on Friday, January 12, for my first visit to Nakusp. It was a flexible day for both News reporter John Boivin and myself. The plan was to meet with Boivin, talk about production and story planning and then see the sights of the town. It was going to be relatively low-key.

But that all changed two days earlier with word that local MLA Katrine Conroy had scheduled a press conference for 11:30 a.m. on January 12, to make an “important announcement.”

After more than 33 years, Mayor Hamling knew that the local hospital was finally getting an upgrade.

I drove with purpose along Highway 6 as casual Friday turned into a major news event.

Boivin covered the press conference in the Minto House Activity Room at the hospital while I took a seat and used a smartphone to record the presser for the Arrow Lakes News Facebook page.

After the announcement everyone was beaming, especially Hamling.

“This is one of the biggest days we’ve had in Nakusp in a long, long time. You couldn’t have picked a better day to come here,” the mayor told me after the press conference.

Interior Health Chair Pat Dooley, who also drove up from Nelson, was “ecstatic” about the project and said nothing was going to stop her from being at the announcement.

“I missed my grandson’s hockey tournament in Okotoks to be here, because I vowed to follow this project through until the end,’ said Dooley.

The disputes and differences that had plagued the project for four years had disappeared.

Arrow Lakes Hospital, which saw 3,700 visits last year, will have an upgraded emergency ward by late next year.

It was a remarkable 60 minutes in a small B.C. town.

Despite being an accidental observer, I was more than pleased to witness the momentous occasion.

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