Heavy construction at Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital (KBRH) is causing a headache for some.
Understandably, this re-configuration has made it difficult for patients and visitors to gain access, especially those with mobility problems.
But it’s not going to change anytime soon, because the $19.1-million job to modernize the emergency department is expected to be years-long.
After hearing ongoing complaints about parking and access, the Trail Times asked Interior Health how staff is dealing with problems related to foot traffic and limited parking spaces.
“This project entails a significant addition to our existing facility and, as with any major project at any facility, construction does mean that parking and access to KBRH has changed,” began Mandy Lowery, KBRH acute health services director.
“This is our new normal moving forward.”
An extended and covered walkway is in place to lead pedestrians to the front door, and a five-minute drop-off area is designated to the side of the facility.
“We know parking and accessing the main entrance is a challenge for patients, particularly those with mobility challenges,” said Lowery. “And we are doing what we can to minimize those impacts within the restrictions created by the work itself, the layout of the property, and the resources we have available – for example, our addition of the covered walkway with handrails along the construction area.”
Complaints from the public and a number of suggestions for improvement have been acted on, she continued.
“For example, we have arranged with BC Transit to have the HandyDart bus use the five-minute drop off area so that people can be dropped off closer to the entrance,” Lowery explained. “We are also in the process of purchasing an additional 10 coin-operated wheelchairs for individuals who have mobility challenges, and (we are) looking at installing additional benches along the covered walkway.”
The idea of a parking lot shuttle is also being looked at.
“We are taking all concerns and suggestions seriously,” Lowery said. “And will do everything possible to continue to adjust things where possible to help people coming to the hospital.”
As final preparations take place before construction begins in earnest, Lowery says it is important to recognize that the hospital is already an active work zone and that there may be times when equipment and larger vehicles will be on site, which could create temporary delays in traffic flow.
“We would urge patients and visitors to allow for extra time when coming to the hospital and seek help from family, or friends, to support their visit if they have mobility challenges.”
The City of Trail has allowed overflow parking on the hospital bench road, and to free-up spaces for patients and visitors, staff members have been asked to park on the road or carpool.
“It is important to stress that we appreciate everyone’s patience and support regarding the impact to the site,” Lowery said. “As the redeveloped emergency department will serve a critical need for our region and have a significant improvement to our ability to provide life-saving services at KBRH.”