Regional taxpayers will see no increase in taxation for hospital projects this year after the West Kootenay-Boundary hospital board passed a $7.88 million budget last week, including almost $1 million for reserve funding.
That means, the average homeowner in Trail will pay approximately $52 for hospital taxes in 2017.
Of the 17 projects approved for $6.29 million – the regional share being 40 per cent or $2.5 million – almost half will be invested into capital upgrades at KBRH (Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital).
Those projects include $1.6 million toward “SPECT-CT,” or single photo emission computed tomography, which involves merging images from two different types of scans for a more precise look at various body functions to help more clearly identify complications such as tumours or Alzheimer’s disease.
The new technology replaces a 2005 model Gamma Camera in the Diagnostic Imaging Department, says Trail Mayor Mike Martin.
“This new machine has improved image quality along with increased capacity to identify the exact location of an abnormal function,” he explained. “This device is used to locate cancerous tumors, minor bone fractures, abnormal functioning of organs such as thyroid, brain and kidney as well as examining cardiac functions and many other medical problems. As such, it is a key diagnostic tool at KBRH.”
Additionally, a new urology imaging system will be purchased for $623,000 as well as a lab instrument, called an integrated chemistry/immunochemistry analyzer, for $322,000. The lab machine automatically run tests on samples from patients to detect any number of biologically active substances and can be used for a variety of tests, such as cancer, hepatitis, illegal drugs, fertility problems, sodium levels, endocrine function, and the detection of blood clots.
District chair Aimee Watson says the board has worked hard this year to ensure local taxation is being directed in the most effective manner.
“It is good news that we will be contributing 40 per cent of costs on capital equipment and new this year – Information Management Information Technology (IMIT) projects, while keeping taxation flat for 2017, including a contribution to reserves. With over $100 million needed on an annual basis to simply maintain infrastructure on regional health facilities (not operations), and knowing the state of the facilities, we anticipate some big capital improvements and we will be prepared to support them.”
The Board chose to fund all of the requests put forth by the Interior Health Authority (IHA) for the fiscal year, except for a resident bus for Columbia View Lodge and a vacation planning system for registered nurses across the region.
“Some directors cited the latter ask as too operational in nature,” she added.
With this year’s $980,000 contribution toward reserve funding, the account now stands at $12.2 million.
Building up reserves is often a hot topic during budget talks because the funds are not project-specific, and this year was no exception.
One director opposed the move while others voiced concern over the growing balance.
“A number of directors expressed concern about the continuing increase in reserve without any indication from either IHA or the province that the KBRH sustainability project is in fact moving forward,” Martin told the Trail Times. “Some directors are saying they’ll approve it this year but come next year, it may be a different discussion.”
Martin voted in favour because of the board’s unanimous support for advancing the hospital’s $40-million sustainability plan, which includes a phased approach to improving the emergency and pharmacy departments as well as Ambulatory Care.
“I take some comfort in the fact that within the health care budget there is significant funding,” Martin said, referring the province’s $4.2 billion increase to health care over three years. “It’s really indicative that the Ministry of Health is advancing several other projects around the province, and given the limited funding that is required to advance the sustainability project, I am still hopeful there will be within that funding program, movement in this hospital,” he added.
“So I fully supported it (reserve increase) given the fact there is potential opportunity here yet.”
The mandate of the WKBRHD (West Kootenay-Boundary Regional Hospital District) is to fund capital projects and equipment. Projects and priorities are proposed each year by IHA, with a list developed in consultation between the IHA and the board. The hospital district typically pays for 40 per cent of the cost<span class="App