Having the health minister in town next week could be sign of good things to come.
With so much local focus on the longevity plan for Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital (KBRH), this visit could mean the $40 million KBRH Sustainability Project is finally on the ministry’s radar as well.
“We’ve been trying to get Minister Terry Lake to come to Trail for quite some time,” Mayor Mike Martin told the Trail Times following Monday night council. “We’ve actually written two previous letters inviting him, first to last year’s Snowflake Gala then we invited him to Silver City Days.”
On both occasions Lake promptly responded but had scheduling conflicts, but the third time was the charm – he’ll be in Trail on June 20 for a tour of the regional facility, Martin confirmed.
“The city extended a third invitation to specifically come and visit us and have a tour of our regional hospital,” Martin added. “Having said that, maybe we were just part of the catalyst that got this visit rolling … but at last we are going to get him to see our hospital first hand.”
IHA (Interior Health Authority) is hosting the minister’s visit, but following that, the regional hospital board will meet with the minister.
“IHA has made this a priority project but the problem we’ve had is the fact that it’s been stonewalled, really, at the Ministry of Health level,” Martin explained.
“So he’ll be having discussions with IHA staff and then there will be a second meeting with the executive of the regional hospital district board, and that’s a tremendous breakthrough for us.”
The multimillion KBRH project has been at the forefront of talks for a few years, especially during budget time, but a December meeting that was expected to bring the plan to fruition only brought disappointment to regional politicians, including Martin.
When IHA’s new chief executive Chris Mazurkewich made a point of stopping in Trail Dec. 1, instead of hearing some ministry guidelines on moving the project forward to the next stage, elected officials were told the plan was sent back to IHA for the health authority to investigate if it could solely fund the $40-million facelift.
How this and any other project is funded remains status quo – the West Kootenay-Boundary Regional Hospital District typically pays 40 per cent of approved project costs while the remaining 60 per cent is funded by the province or through donations provided by local hospital foundations.
With wheels spinning seemingly going nowhere, the hospital board buckled up earlier this year and upped its $10 million reserve cap in advance of project approval, then the board let that decision be known.
At the behest of Martin and the hospital district, the Kootenay Boundary and Central Kootenay regional boards agreed to lobby the project by writing a letter of support and addressing it to Minister Lake.
“When you look at this hospital upgrade, $40 million and 40 per cent will come from the hospital board, it’s $26 million (for the Ministry of Health),” said Martin.
“That’s not a big amount in the grand scheme of things, so we believe if we can show Minister Lake what we’ve got, and he’s obviously very much aware of the facility, then I don’t think he can do anything else but support this project.”
Upgrades to the KBRH emergency room (ER), pharmacy and ambulatory care are at the epicentre of the project. Besides improving patient flow in the ER and providing additional pharmacy space, the plan focuses on the regional hospital’s ability to meet the increasing need for certain services like colonoscopies, gastroscopies and other one-day procedures.