East Kootenay Regional Hospital in Cranbrook. Google maps photo

Sparwood mayor elected Kootenay hospital board chair, capital budget approved

The East Kootenay hospital board elected new leadership and passed the 2022 capital budget containing a number of proposed projects for health care facilities in the region.

Sparwood Mayor David Wilks was elected board chair of the Kootenay East Regional Hospital District board, following the announced and pending retirement of Elkford Mayor Dean McKerracher.

Wilks won a secret ballot vote by a 13-8 margin over Fernie Mayor Ange Qualizza, who also challenged for the role. Garry Jackman, with the Regional District of Central Kootenay, was acclaimed as vice-chair.

A number of proposed capital projects for health care facilities in the East Kootenay region are going ahead, following budget approval by elected officials.

The Kootenay East Regional Hospital District Board green-lit a $10.8 million budget, with proposed capital projects at the East Kootenay Regional Hospital in Cranbrook and other health care facilities in Sparwood, Fernie, Creston and Golden.

That breaks down into an approval for $3 million for the 2022 budget, while outstanding projects approved in previous years tallied up to $7.8 million.

Health care capital projects are cost shared 60 per cent by the province, and 40 per cent by local taxes collected through the regional hospital district.

Seven projects were identified at ERKH, the largest being a facility-wide suction pump system that has reached it’s end-of-life and will cost $650,000 to replace, according to Todd Mastel, director, business operations with Interior Health.

Other notable projects include a additional funding request needed to finish renovations to the new pharmacy space, as well as funding towards relocating the oncology area to the main floor of the hospital, essentially flipping spaces with the physiotherapy area.

An initial budget of $250,000 was proposed to plan for an Oncology and Renal Renovation, however, local officials voted to kick in an additional $100,000 in order to widen the scope of options to be studied by Interior Health and brought back for discussion.

Wilks noted that he, along with former chair McKerracher, had held informal discussions with Interior Health officials about the feasibility of adding a second tower at ERKH for oncology services.

“I think there’s an opportunity to create a very good oncology, renal, radiation area that would service all of the East Kootenay and take pressure off of Kelowna, because I can only see that going up,” Wilks said.

Mastel noted that planning work would begin in April, and take the better part of the year to determine the scope of a defined project with associated cost estimates.

Further approved EKRH projects include a video tower system, a laser holmium and an additional medstation.

The largest item from the 2022 capital project list is a $1.8 million designated for a Primary Care Network in Golden.

Mastel says Interior Health is looking at two options to lease space — one close to the Golden Hospital and one that’s further away — which will be used by staff that are going to be recruited into the area, according to Mastel.

Other regional projects include an Oxygen Manifold Upgrade and a General Radiographic System at the Sparwood Health Centre, a kitchenette replacement at the Swan Valley Lodge in Creston, and a Chemistry Analyzer at the Elk Valley Hospital.

While not in in the 2022 capital project list, Mastel also provided a brief update on expansion of the F.W. Green Home in Cranbrook, noting that the planning work has taken longer than expected due to rising cost pressures.

The initial plan, discussed last year, was to add 70 beds to the existing 60-bed facility by constructing a new building on an adjacent vacant lot, moving the current residents there, and then demolishing and rebuilding the existing structure.

Another update came up regarding the opening of the Urgent and Primary Care Centre (UPCC) in Cranbrook last fall, which is currently staffed at 67 per cent with plans to recruit more.

The UPCC is seeing approximately 60/61 visits per day, and of the booked appointments so far, roughly 800 patients have been unattached to a primary care provider.