East Kootenay Regional Hospital in Cranbrook. Google maps photo

Hospital board wrestles with capital project priorities

Big ticket items include FW Green Home expansion, modernizing East Kootenay Regional Hospital in Cranbrook

The regional hospital board affirmed local capital project priorities during a discussion in Cranbrook last week, as local elected officials continue to work with Interior Health and the provincial government to push proposals forward.

The expansion of the FW Green Home long-term care facility in Cranbrook, updating oncology and renal services at the East Kootenay Regional Hospital and upgrading or replacing the Golden and District Hospital are the three main issues identified by the Kootenay East Regional Hospital district board.

Modernizing EKRH was later included as a forth priority following a closed board discussion, which met for a regular quarterly meeting last week in Cranbrook.

Modernizing EKRH, which includes work already underway to upgrade oncology and renal services, is going to run approximately $200 million and needs to be done in phases to avoid disruption to hospital operations and patient care, according to KERHD board chair David Wilks.

The $200 million isn’t a new cost figure; it’s been a known estimate for a while, Wilks added.

“It’s going to have to be done in stages, so we recognize that,” Wilks said, “But what we do know, is the overall project, including renal and oncology will cost $200 million. So we’ll just slowly work at it. So once we get oncology and renal done, go on to the next thing, whatever the next thing is that they identify at EKRH.”

Wilks also continued to advocate for a second tower at EKRH, and more specifically, the inclusion of radiation treatment, which requires construction of a specialized bunker to shield against radiation from medical equipment.

Currently, Kelowna is the closest city for radiation services, as treatment options in Alberta aren’t available anymore.

“It’s just not right. It’s wrong on every level..and it just seems like the southeast corner of British Columbia gets forgotten about for whatever reason and if we had something here, it would take the pressure off,” said Wilks.

“I understand the province has a priority list and Cranbrook’s not on it [for radiation services]. I understand that and they have to complete other ones that are on the list and moving forward, like Kamloops and other parts of the province. But we’re out in the hinterland here and Cranbrook is the main hospital for all the southeast district. It is the hospital and as a result of that, we need to get it here.”

Expansion of the FW Green Home long-term care facility in Cranbrook was another high priority project for the hospital board and Interior Health, however, it’s taking longer than anticipated to work through the business planning process.

Wilks says the project, which is expected to double the facility’s bed count from 60 to 130, is currently estimated at over $100 million, as the province wrestles with ways to reel in those costs that have risen due to inflation and supply chain issues.

“It’s much needed in Cranbrook,” said Wilks. “It will help not only Cranbrook, but it’ll help the immediate area as well and the longer we wait, the more it costs, so lets just get going.”

As with all capital projects relating to health care, the hospital board, through local taxpayers, provides 40 per cent of funding, while the province is responsible for the remaining 60 per cent.

The hospital board meeting also included updates on the pharmacy mixing room, which is now substantially completed and should be ready for use by mid-September.

Additionally, all equipment necessary for the installation of the new SPECT CT scanner is on site and should be in operation for patient use by October. The purchase of the SPECT CT scanner, which combines three-dimensional functional imaging of nuclear medicine with the anatomical accuracy of a computed tomography (CT) scan, was made possible by local donations through a fundraising drive from the East Kootenay Foundation for Health.