IHA letter quells hospital concerns

Fears over the possible removal of regional status from Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital have been quelled by the IHA.

Fears raised earlier this year over the possible removal of regional status from Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital have been quelled by the Interior Health Authority’s board of director’s chair.

Norman Embree said in a letter to Trail city council at last week’s meeting that concerns with the hospital’s regional status — raised in March by Castlegar Mayor Lawrence Chernoff — were unfounded.

He pointed to the significant investment the IHA, the community and the city (through infrastructure investments) have made in the hospital as reasons why it would remain the West Kootenay’s regional facility.

“The … noted investments supported the establishment of a regional facility and will continue to support a consistent and comprehensive suite of services to the residents of the West Kootenay into the future,” he said.

Embree cited over $20 million invested in capital upgrades and maintenance at the hospital since the IHA was created in 2001.

In that time, the hospital has received “significant” surgical equipment upgrades, renovated the regional renal program space, and established a mobile MRI service.

In the letter Embree detailed the roof, electrical system and back up generator had all been replaced, and the authority was planning for boiler system upgrades and replacements.

On March 11 Trail city council supported a motion dedicated to keeping regional status at Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital (KBRH).

At the time, Trail councillor Kevin Jolly said he felt compelled to lead a campaign in taking a stand and protecting the Trail hospital because Castlegar council discussed the possibility of a new regional hospital with Health Minister Mike de Jong.

Jolly requested all capital funding for the region be dedicated to the refurbishment, upgrade and support of existing medical facilities to deliver the highest level of patient care.

“In the longer term, refurbishment and renewal of health care services and facilities in the West Kootenay will be a priority for Interior Health,” Embree replied.

He said long term facility capital planning was a continuous exercise undertaken by IHA, paying attention to the demographic information of the area, including projected population aging and areas of projected population growth and decline.

“We also examine our existing physical plant as, over time, continued investment in aging facilities can be more costly that investing in new facilities,” he said.

A letter was sent March 28 by Trail council to Interior Health, the Health Minister and MLA Katrine Conroy.