East Kootenay Regional Hospital in Cranbrook. Google maps photo

Interior Health wrestling with rising capital project cost pressures

A number of capital projects are underway at East Kootenay Regional Hospital in Cranbrook

Costs for the expansion of the F.W. Green Home in Cranbrook remain unknown as Interior Health wrestles with rising construction, inflationary and supply chain pressures for capital health care projects across the region.

Todd Mastel, Corporate Director, Business Operations with Interior Health provided a number of updates on local health care initiatives during a meeting with the Kootenay East Regional Hospital District Board on Friday.

Items included the F.W. Green Home expansion business plan, planning and renovation work currently underway at the East Kootenay Regional Hospital, and other initiatives at health care facilities in the East Kootenay.

Mastel noted Interior Health is doing what it can for capital project budget challenges triggered by inflation and supply-chain issues.

“We have our standard bag of tricks when we’re seeing cost pressures,” said Mastel. “We look at the scope, is there anything we can do? We’re doing more work, in terms of the labour side, in-house than we ever have to try and help mitigate that.

“And we are working with all our hospital district partners when we need to maintain scope and where we have cost-pressures.”

The F.W. Green Home project is a proposed expansion of the Cranbrook facility from 60 to 130 long-term care beds. While specific plans remain in development, the vision — based on previous board discussions — is to construct a new building on an adjacent vacant property, move everything into it, then demolish and rebuild the existing structure.

It’s a project that will come with a hefty price tag, but capital health care projects are cost shared 60 per cent by the province and 40 per cent by local taxes collected through the KERHD jurisdiction.

In 2020, the KERHD board approved taxation increases for three fiscal years in order to prepare for the anticipated costs associated with large infrastructure projects. At the time, the hospital board’s cost share of the F.W. Green Home expansion was estimated at $24 million. Under the 60/40 per cent cost share arrangement between the province and theregional hospital board, that would mean a total budget north of $60 million for the entire F.W. Green Home expansion project.

Wilks noted he tried to get answers on estimated budget costs at a recent meeting with Interior Health officials and hospital board chairs

“At the IH meeting, I asked the question, ‘how much is the Green Home going to cost us?’ And it was silence,” Wilks said. “So that tells me it’s high, really high, and they’re really uncomfortable to come back to this board because they know it’s going to be sticker shock.”

Additional updates from Mastel focused on the East Kootenay Regional Hospital in Cranbrook, particularly the $3.5 million pharmacy expansion, along with planning for new renal and oncology services as well as an upcoming relocation of existing oncology services.

Interior Health is planning out the future of oncology and renal services at ERKH, with a business plan expected to be complete by September 2023, while the current oncology space is planned to be temporarily relocated from the third floor to the main floor in the summer months.

Following some procurement challenges that caused delays, the pharmacy renovation is expected to be substantially complete by July.

The installation of the new SPECT CT scanner was delayed, again due to procurement issues, while IH was also hesitant to prepare the site because it meant shutting down the existing nuclear medicine services, according to Mastel. However, construction is underway and the $2.2 million project should be substantially completed by August.

Following discussion, the board also passed a motion to set up a strategic priority planning session outside of the board’s quarterly meeting schedule. A clash of capital project priorities between locally elected board members and officials within the Ministry of Health and Interior Health has been a long-running issue, as both sides will bring projects with differing priority rankings to the table during budget season.