Top officials from the Interior Health Authority stopped in Cranbrook this week to visit the East Kootenay Regional Hospital as part of a listening tour throughout the region.
Chris Mazurkewich, CEO of Interior Health and Doug Cochrane, who was recently appointed chair of the IH board, stopped in Cranbrook with plans to also visit other regional communities such as Fernie, Creston and Invermere.
Construction is ongoing at the EKRH as a long-awaited permanent Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) unit is expected to be completed by the summer, according to Mazurkewich.
“We’re very excited to have a full-time permanent MRI within the East Kootenay Regional Hospital,” said Mazurkewich.
“Just think from a community recognition point of view; you think of the Foundation (East Kootenay Foundation for Health) and the Auxiliary (Cranbrook Health Care Auxiliary) each contributing $650,000 which speaks volumes of how the community feels about having a permanent MRI and when we talk to the physicians and the ability to access the MRI and they’re not waiting — the mobile’s been a great boon, but we’ve out grown it and this is the next logical step and it’s badly needed.”
The MRI unit is budgeted for 5.65 million, with contributions coming from the provincial government ($2.21 million) and the Kootenay East Regional Hospital District Board ($2.14 million). The East Kootenay Foundation for Health is contributing $650,000 through partnerships with the Kimberley Health Care Auxiliary ($100,000), Invermere Health Care Auxiliary ($50,000), Elk Valley Foundation ($25,000) and Fostering the Future Foundation ($100,000).
Cranbrook Health Care Auxiliary also pitched in an additional $650,000 bringing the total local contributions to $1.3 million.
A stealth benefit to having a permanent MRI in Cranbrook is that it frees up the mobile unit to service other more rural areas of the southern interior. In addition to the EKRH, permanent MRI units are also being planned or built at hospitals in Penticton and Vernon.
“So we’re going to have three new permanent MRI’s which then allows us to look at the mobile,” said Mazurkewich. “Effectively, it will be a permanent one in Trail at Kootenay Boundary Hospital or it will be upgraded and we’ll be looking at what we do in terms of that particular facility.”
There always seems to be a project underway at the hospital; while the MRI unit is being built, the former Intensive Care Unit space is also undergoing renovations to be used as a pediatric area for children and families.
There have been rumblings that attention is starting to shift to the oncology unit, however, capital projects are assessed every year and ranked on a prioritization list.
“So the oncology unit is in that discussion,” said Mazurkewich, “where it ends up on the prioritization table at this point, I don’t know, but it certainly looks to me like something that we should be doing, the question is when.”
Also joining Mazurkewich for the Tour was Doug Cochrane, who was recently appointed as chair of the board for Interior Health, replacing predecessor John O’Fee.
“Looking at the scope of activities at Interior Health and looking at the management and the board direction that has existed prior to me joining the board, it’s actually quite remarkable what this health authority has done with the resources that are available to it and the diversity of communities that it reaches,” said Cochrane.
“The opportunity to see Fernie and Cranbrook from a health provider perspective, see the facilities, is really quite amazing to me. Seeing the work that’s being done by First Nations in this community is quite remarkable and I think from a new person’s view of this, this is a wonderful opportunity to learn.”