Hospital board adds to its savings

Trail council would like regional group to cough up cash for improvements

The regional hospital board will inject another $2 million into its rainy day funds this year, but Trail council says it’s time to dust off the cash and start spending.

The West Kootenay-Boundary Regional Hospital District (WKBRHD) was considering three scenarios for its budget this year, which included adding a half-million, $1 million or $2 million annual contribution to its safety-net.

Currently, the regional hospital board has over $5.7 million in capital reserve funds, which is money set aside for use in the event of a financial emergency or for specific projects or improvements in the future.

Trail council’s stance was less is better in this fiscally tight year and agreed that a $500,000 contribution toward capital reserve funds would suffice this time.

“I am surprised to see it go back up to $5 million,” said Coun. Gord DeRosa, at last week’s governance meeting. “Because you can only save money for so long and pretty soon people who are waiting for that money to be spent are not getting the service that it was meant for.”

However, the 30-member hospital board met a week ago and decided to allocate $2 million from this year’s $4.6 million budget to reserves, confirmed Stuart Horn, chief financial officer for the Regional District of Central Kootenay and hospital board treasurer.

He noted that the motion did not carry unanimously.

The extra capital could bode well for the regional hospital after the aging emergency room in Kootenay Lake Hospital received a modern makeover a few years ago, and Trail’s facility might be next on the list.

“IHA staff spoke about beginning an investigation into KBRH emergency room improvements, after having just completing the same for Nelson,” said Ali Grieve, Area A director and hospital board member. “I can only speculate, but I imagine that is why additional funds for the reserve fund was supported.”

While it will take time for Interior Health to return with a plan, if KBRH emergency upgrades are being considered, the board must have its funding portion in place, she added.

Interior Health facility upgrades are presented to the regional hospital board annually, and upon review and prioritization, approved projects are 40 per cent funded by the WKBRHD.

With the hospital board proposing another study to identify future needs in regional facilities, Trail council members oppose funding that initiative.

“The study that recently came out identified things that should be done to the two hospitals,” noted Trail Mayor Dieter Bogs. “Let’s get started on those projects and improve the hospitals in Nelson and Trail,” he said. “We have to contribute to the reserve, that is not the issue. But we are going to have to start sinking it in and make sure the hospitals are modern.”

Bogs was referring to the multimillion-dollar costs to replace or upgrade the aging Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital and sister facility in Nelson that were identified in a capital strategy and facility assessment report released by the Interior Health Authority (IHA) last fall.

KBRH could be replaced for upwards of $84 million, or almost $50 million in repairs and upgrades could bring to bring the 60-year old facility up to industry standards, according to the IHA report.

“We should stop doing studies and start doing things,” said Bogs. “We know what needs to be done so let’s get started,” he continued.” There is no question when you look at what a brand new hospital costs, you need to fix up this house that we have.”