On the site of the new Intensive Care Unit at East Kootenay Regional Hospital – left to right: John Kettle

On the site of the new Intensive Care Unit at East Kootenay Regional Hospital – left to right: John Kettle

Interior Health CEO applauds ICU project

Dr. Robert Halpenny toured the site of the expansion to East Kootenay Regional Hospital in Cranbrook on Monday

  • Oct. 2, 2013 2:00 p.m.

Interior Health’s chief of staff was in Cranbrook this week inspecting the site of the new Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at East Kootenay Regional Hospital.

Dr. Robert Halpenny, Chief Executive Officer for the Interior Health Authority, walked through the grassy area where the new, state of the art unit will be built.

The $20 million project will consist of a 6,500 square foot ICU with six beds, including equipment. The Kootenay East Regional Hospital District chipped in $8 million for the project, while the B.C. government will provide the remaining $12 million.

About 50 per cent of the project cost will go to upgrading the hospital’s electrical system.

On Monday, September 30, Dr. Halpenny toured the site of the ICU, which will be built on two levels to the north of the hospital’s existing footprint.

“It’s terrific. We’ve looked at the site out here. We are in the mock-up stage so that the staff have input into what they are actually going to be working in. That’s exciting for them. We are as close as you can be to being on time,” said Dr. Halpenny.

He said medical staff have raised several concerns over the current ICU, but it was hard to envisage the problems until he saw the cramped unit himself.

“When we were getting the requests for the new ICU here, having not seen it, it was difficult to read the report. But then as soon as you came in and looked at the ICU, you said, ‘Now I see the issue,'” said Dr. Halpenny.

“The biggest (concern) was the issues of size. It’s very small, very cramped. When people are in the ICU and they are very sick, and for example if there is a trauma, there are a lot of people around an individual’s bed. That leads to the person in the next bed being compromised. So we will be looking at a much larger unit with appropriate separation. With that appropriate separation comes improved care specifically related to infections.”

A request for proposals for the ICU is expected to go out in mid-December or early January. However, because the electrical work must be carefully scheduled, it will take 36 to 40 months to complete, meaning the new ICU ward should open in late 2016.

Dr. Halpenny’s visit was not just to see the ICU; he spent Monday in meetings with staff, physicians, elected officials and hospital foundations and auxiliaries.

“There are a number of different reasons for visiting, but I think the biggest one is to meet with the staff and understand what their issues are,” he said.

In 2012, Interior Health recruited more physicians than the rest of B.C.’s health authorities, according to Dr. Halpenny.

“So we are doing some good work in that field. But there is a worldwide shortage of primary care physicians specifically and a shortage of general internal medicine specialists as well,” he said, adding that ultrasound technicians are particularly difficult to recruit.