The regional hospital board has approved a $5.2 million budget for capital projects at health care facilities across the East Kootenay, many of which are earmarked for the East Kootenay Regional Hospital in Cranbrook.
Big ticket capital items this year include a $3.1 million project renovation of the nursery and nursery station at EKRH, which is intended to expand the existing space to decrease congestion and enable the improved set-up of equipment required to care for sick newborns.
Additional projects at EKRH include an elevator modernization, oncology relocation from the third floor to the main floor, emergency department triage renovation, outside stair replacement and psychiatry main door replacement.
Further, the CT scanner at EKRH needs replacement, which will come with a $3 million cost.
Annual capital projects, either facility- or equipment-related in the Kootenay East Regional Hospital District (KERHD) are identified by Interior Health and brought forward to the regional board for approval on a cost-share funding model.
The province funds 60 per cent, while local East Kootenay taxpayers shoulder the remaining 40 per cent.
Organizations such as the East Kootenay Foundation for Health also pitch in to ease the financial burden, with past fundraising campaigns supporting initiatives such as the East Kootenay Foundry and the SPEC CT scanner, which is now operational at EKRH.
Two of Interior Health’s identified projects that the board declined to fund included an additional request of $20,000 to go towards planning for the new oncology space on the second floor of the ICU building, and a $68,000 request towards the renovation of space at the Elkford Health Centre.
In both cases, declining those requests was more about pausing the process and sending it back to Interior Health for reconsideration, as the KERHD board can amend the budget in future meetings to approve any additional spending.
Removing the $20,000 request for oncology planning was put forward by chair David Wilks, who noted that the board had previously approved and additional $100,000 last year for the oncology and renal planning project specifically aimed at studying the future potential for radiation therapy services at EKRH.
“At that time, we were asking for consideration of looking at radiation services, not the full-meal deal but getting ready for it, if it comes,” said Wilks. “I had conversations with senior levels at IHA and was told… ‘we don’t need your money’ and now they’re coming back for more money.
“I have a problem with that.”
Wilks argued that Interior Health needs to consider radiation therapy as part of long-term planning for EKRH, as Kelowna is the closest B.C. city that provides radiation therapy because Alberta isn’t an option anymore.
Acting Chair Garry Jackman, representing the Regional District of Central Kootenay, concurred.
“If we limit the scope and do X, Y, Z today, Victoria’s not going to revisit it for decades,” Jackman said. “So planning for it now, at least lets plan for it. That’s all we’re talking about; we’re not talking about building anything, but lets get all the numbers on the page and the sensible options to make sure the footprint, the flow, all the considerations are there. Why would you not plan for something better that you might need within several decades?”
For the Elkford Health Centre, some board members were leery of investing $68,000 into a building that, according to descriptions from a few directors, is not suitable for renovations and expansion of Primary Care Network services.
Elkford Mayor Steve Fairbairn was critical of potentially spending thousands on a building that he described as crowded, out-of-date and beyond its useful life.
”I think on an efficiency basis, looking to the future for my community requires a new and improved clinic, period,” Fairbairn said.
Fairbairn also noted Elkford has been without an emergency department for over two years.
Additional KERHD budget items include approving the replacement of rooftop HVAC units for F.W. Green Home in Cranbrook, while a heating boiler replacement was approved for the Creston Valley Hospital and a chiller unit and kitchen replacement for the Swan Valley Lodge.