Interior Health’s recent proposal likely caused many coughs and a few headaches at the hospital board table.
In a nutshell, IH (Interior Health) is asking taxpayers in the West Kootenay-Boundary Regional Hospital District to pay for the first leg of upgrades – estimated to near $20 million – at the regional hospital in Trail.
Citing a scarce budget for projects over $2 million, IH proposed the 30 hospital directors consider paying the full tab to redesign and expand the emergency department at Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital (KBRH).
IH states the KRBH Sustainability Plan remains its priority for the district, but “in light of current funding challenges, we are interested in looking at innovative ideas and exploring new partnering options with you that extend beyond our historical partnership.”
Before anything “innovative” happens, a guarantee would have to be set in stone, says Trail Mayor Mike Martin.
“Their proposal was not at all palatable or acceptable,” he stated. “What we are trying to do with the proposal is get it to a point where it is something that would work for the regional hospital district, for IH and for the province, but at the same time not increase financial burden on the taxpayer.”
So what is the rationale behind the request? Especially without a commitment from IH or the province to fund the second and third phase of upgrades to Ambulatory Care, the pharmacy, and facility-wide infrastructure?
“If the regional hospital district fully funded the first phase, around $20 million, that would meet the (district’s) 40 per cent component of the whole project,” said Martin.”What we would expect for that is completion of the other two phases,” he continued. “Except what they proposed to us, is that we fund that first phase but there is no commitment Interior Health or the province would actually move forward with the other two phases.”
The matter brought a lively discussion to the board meeting, but there is no interest of agreeing to the option, he added.
“It was not resolved at last night’s meeting (Oct. 26),” Martin clarified. “It was turned back to the executive to further explore what could be done to engage with the province to have them make a commitment to complete the other two phases within a specified time frame – in return for the full funding.”
Martin also questioned the basis of the argument, being the lack of funding for a project that IH has deemed a district priority.
“The rationale they’ve been using is that the funding is not available at this time, which we find rather difficult to understand because the IHA senior executives on board have told us this is their top priority project and absolutely critical that it get done,” he said. “In the face of that, it is very difficult to understand given the magnitude of capital funding that goes into hospital facilities, that this would not be considered in an immediate plan.”
Martin suggests the proposal is to break “the log jam.”
“But we don’t find what is being presented to us, at all palatable.”
Another possible twist is the upcoming provincial election, tentatively slated for May 9 next year.
Would a potential agreement be quashed if a new party were to take over in 2017?
Martin responded but clarified he is only one voice and not speaking on behalf of the hospital board.
“We would likely be looking to establish an agreement which binds the provincial government to a commitment to advance the other two phases of the Sustainability Upgrade Projects,” he speculated. “Having said this, any funding agreement is not likely to be changed given the considerable work that has already been put into the development of the project and the strong support from the IHA for a project which is deemed to be a high priority and will be the last of the remaining upgrades for regional hospitals within IHA.”