By Annalee Grant
The Daily Townsman
It’s been 10 years since the Interior Health Authority took over the operation of the Cranbrook and District Hospital. Since then, many changes have been undertaken both physically and behind the scenes.
The most obvious change at the hospital is the name – which was amended to the East Kootenay Regional Hospital to reflect what the centre was to achieve.
Jason Giesbrecht, IHA’s acute care area director for East Kootenay, said they have turned the hospital into a regional centre over the past decade, attracting specialists and more surgeons to better serve patients locally.
“Patients no longer have to travel outside of the East Kootenay to access specialists,” he said. “We have now created a true regional centre for the East Kootenay.”
In the past 10 years, the number of patients has increased modestly, Giesbrecht said. The numbers of surgeries being performed has jumped, which correlates to the number of surgeons now practising at the East Kootenay Regional Hospital. He also reported an increase in emergency room visits.
“We expect those numbers to continue to rise,” Giesbrecht said.
He links the rising numbers to an aging population, and stresses the need for more access to health care at home. “Interior Health is very much focused on providing services to patients in their home.”
IHA formed in 2001, and the name change was one of the first decisions made under the new authority. In 2004, IHA approved a capital investment for a major renovation of the Cranbrook hospital, which would see the building become what we know it as today. That investment was a $32 million renovation to the diagnostic imaging centre, ambulatory care, the foyer and emergency room. The renovations were completed in 2007.
“That facilitated the development of the regional hospital as a true regional centre,” Giesbrecht said.
Since then, the hospital and community has continued to change. Many specialists have been attracted to the Kootenay area to work in the hospital and at local clinics, including anesthetists, urologists and a variety of surgeons.
In 2005 a mobile MRI was added to the hospital, which made the test more accessible to Kootenay residents who would normally have had to travel outside of the region.
In 2008, a TeleRenal program was started which gave patients with kidney problems access to local treatment. The ER High Acuity Response Team (HART Team) was established in the same year, which combined highly trained critical care nurses, respiratory therapists and the B.C. Ambulance Team to provide ground transport for patients in outlying areas.
The East Kootenay Foundation for Health is fundraising for a new digital stereotactic mammography machine, to shorten wait lists and limit exposure for women.