With Interior Health asking taxpayers living in the regional hospital district to absorb $8.25 million in capital projects this year, more than double last year’s request of $3.8 million, Frank Marino is leading the way through this pricey request after unexpectedly being voted chair by secret ballot at the first board meeting.
While he’s a rookie to elected politics, Marino is only months into his first term as Mayor of Warfield, he’s long-in-tooth when it comes to health-related business in the West Kootenay-Boundary Regional Hospital District.
“As this was my first meeting at the board, I was a bit surprised to be voted in as chair,” Marino told the Trail Times. “I believe that my background working for Interior Health as an administrator and in HR (Human Resources) was the reason the board members supported me. I think this experience will help me to take on the significant role, and the fact there are many board members with years of experience that will be of great help and support.”
He acknowledged the hefty financial ask from taxpayers in the hospital district — Interior Health’s total budget sits at $20.6 million compared to $9.5 million in 2022 — 40 per cent of which the regional hospital board is tasked to cover.
While the regional hospital district’s cost-share is $8.25 million, the board previously approved $900,000, bringing the 2023 tax request to $7.35 million.
“This is a large increase in the request,” Marino said, clarifying the board is in the midst of setting the budget, which has to be approved at the next meeting in March.
“The board is well aware of the impact of possible tax increases facing local rate payers from the different government bodies, so we will be as prudent as possible in determining our tax request for the hospital board,” he said.
“The board does manage a reserve fund to help with keeping taxes at a reasonable rate.”
Topping the list of priciest jobs is $2.8 million for long-term care and community clinic equipment at the Nelson Health Campus. The money will be used to outfit the campus, which will provide 75 new long-term care beds along with public health, mental health and substance use, and home health services to the Nelson community. Furnishings for resident rooms is included as well as equipment for minor treatment and rehabilitation for staff, family and sacred areas of the campus.
The next three costliest capital projects are in Trail; two at the hospital and one at a care home. First is $2.3 million for Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital; $1.3 million to replace 55-year old air supply fans in the mechanical room, and $1 million for boiler upgrades. Third is $527,200 to replace the existing chiller and cooling tower at Columbia View Lodge. Installed in 2001, Interior Health says the equipment is at-risk of failure in extreme heat and needs to be replaced.
Any capital project over $100,000 is subject to government approval.
Those also include: $256,500 for Boundary Hospital to replace an air handling unit installed in 1975; $140,000 to develop a business plan to renovate “medical device reprocessing” in support of the surgical department in the Nelson hospital; and $120,000 for the MRI department at the Trail hospital.
Construction projects under $100,000 include repaving the parking lot and entrance at Castlegar and District Community Health Centre and systems upgrades at Arrow Lakes Hospital and the Community Health Centre in New Denver.
The next board meeting is slated for March 22.
The main purpose of the regional hospital district board is to oversee funding for hospital equipment and capital projects. A list of projects and priorities is developed annually in consultation between the hospital district board and Interior Health.
The 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.
The West Kootenay-Boundary Regional Hospital District is a separate entity from the Regional District of Central Kootenay (RDCK), though agendas and minutes are only posted on the RDCK website. The hospital district board is comprised of 17 RDCK directors and 13 directors representing the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary.
The 2023 executive committee representing four regions are: Terry Martin, Greater Trail; Walter Popoff, Arrow Lakes/Slocan/Castlegar/Nakusp; Keith Page, Kaslo/Nelson/Salmo; and Grace McGregor, Boundary.
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter
Central Kootenay Regional DistrictHospitalsKootenay Boundary Regional DistrictKootenay Boundary Regional Hospital