Hospital board struggles with capital project priorities

The regional hospital board confirmed priorities for local capital projects during a discussion in Cranbrook last week, as local officials continue to work with Interior Health and the provincial government to advance the proposals.

The expansion of the FW Green Home long-term care facility in Cranbrook, the updating of oncology and nephrology services at the East Kootenay Regional Hospital, and the upgrading or replacement of the Golden Hospital and District are the top three issues identified by the Kootenay East Regional Hospital District Board.

Modernizing EKRH was then included as a fourth priority following a closed-door discussion of the board, which convened for a regular quarterly meeting last week in Cranbrook.

According to KERHD Chairman of the Board, David Wilks, the modernization of EKRH, which includes work already underway to upgrade the oncology and nephrology departments, will cost approximately $200 million and is to be carried out in stages to avoid any interruption of hospital operations and patient care.

The $200 million is not a new cost figure; that’s an estimate that’s been known for some time, Wilks added.

“It’s going to have to be done in stages, so we recognize that,” Wilks said, “But what we do know is that the overall project, including kidney disease and oncology, will cost $200 million. So we’re going to work it slowly, so once we’re done with oncology and nephrology, move on to the next thing, whatever the next thing they identify as EKRH.

Wilks also continued to advocate for a second tower at EKRH, and more specifically, the inclusion of radiation therapy, which requires the construction of a specialized bunker to protect against radiation from medical equipment.

Currently, Kelowna is the closest city for radiation therapy services, as treatment options in Alberta are no longer available.

“It’s just not right. It’s wrong on every level…and it seems like the southeast corner of BC is forgotten for some reason and if we had something here it would take the pressure off,” Wilks said.

“I understand the province has a list of priorities and Cranbrook is not on it. [for radiation services]. I understand that and they need to complete others that are on the list and moving forward, like Kamloops and other parts of the province. But we’re in the backcountry here, and Cranbrook is the main hospital for the entire southeastern district. This is the hospital and therefore we have to bring him here.

The expansion of the FW Green Home long-term care facility in Cranbrook was another high priority project for the hospital board and Interior Health, but the business planning process is taking longer than expected .

Wilks says the project, which is expected to double the number of beds at the facility from 60 to 130, is currently estimated at more than $100 million, as the province looks for ways to reduce those costs that have increased due to inflation and supply chain issues.

“It’s very necessary in Cranbrook,” Wilks said. “It will not only help Cranbrook but it will also help the immediate area and the longer we wait the more it costs so let’s get on with it.”

As with all health care capital projects, the hospital board, through local taxpayers, provides 40% of the funding, while the province is responsible for the remaining 60%.

The hospital board meeting also included updates on the pharmacy mixing room, which is now substantially complete and should be ready for use by mid-September.

Additionally, all the equipment needed to install the new SPECT CT scanner is on site and should be operational for patients by October. The purchase of the SPECT CT scanner, which combines the three-dimensional functional imaging of nuclear medicine with the anatomical precision of a computed tomography (CT) scan, was made possible by local donations through an East Kootenay fundraising campaign Foundation for Health.

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