Politicians, community volunteers and public servants celebrated the official unveiling of the new Intensive Care Unit at the East Kootenay Regional Hospital with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Friday afternoon.
The ICU, a $20 million project that broke ground in May 2014, finished ahead of schedule and under budget and will be fully operational by April.
In addition to the ICU expansion, which includes six beds, the project also included an electrical system upgrade for the entire EKRH facility. Of the six beds, two are for high-acuity care, which are for patients who require more care than a standard inpatient ward, but less than the ICU and will help make sure the right bed is used to meet the care needs of patients.
Kootenay East MLA Bill Bennett, who hosted the ceremony, noted that the project was the result of various levels of government and community organizations coming together to realize a vision.
“Our regional hospital continues to improve service to the public and having celebrated each milestone in this project, along with the community, I am very proud of the Province’s continuing investment,” said Bennett. “The people of the East Kootenay will benefit for generations from this beautiful facility.”
In his remarks, Bennett also noted the importance of the electrical upgrades, which improves power supply to the entire hospital, optimizes the systems performance and provides capacity to expand for future power needs.
“I do recall a tour of the hospital I went on in 2000 and interestingly last night, there was a power outage and the new backup generators had to be fired up,” Bennett said. “…The two generators kicked in without a beat and there was electricity where and when it was needed.
“When I toured the hospital in the year 2000, I was taken down into the basement…and there are many here who will remember this—that old generator that used sit down in the basement, sometimes it wouldn’t start.
“So we had situations with this hospital 15 years ago that if the power went off, we didn’t have electricity.”
In terms of funding, the breakdown consisted of $11.478 from the Ministry of Health, $7.652 from the Kootenay East Regional Hospital District and $870,000 coming from regional community donations, including a $450,000 gift from the Cranbrook Health Care Auxiliary, and further donations from the Kimberley and Invermere Health Care Auxiliaries.
KERHD president Dean McKerracher noted he had a personal connection with the project, having spent some time in the current ICU.
“I once spent some time in the old Intensive Care [unit], he said. “My doctors are here, so thank you for that. I will tell you it was not a pleasurable incident. Five days in there and there was no room for the family to come or for the nurses to work or for the doctors to work.
“So this is a tremendous step in the future for this hospital and this group.”
The new ICU is a 787 square metre addition to the northeast side of the EKRH. The size and layout will provide better flow through the unit for doctors and staff, while offering patients additional privacy, family spaces and maximized natural light.
Dr. Lawrence Jewett noted that the hospital was once featured many years ago in a scathing report by Maclean’s magazine as one of the five worst hospitals in the country.
That is no longer the case.
“This really marks a era of a new beginning in critical care in the East Kootenays,” Jewett said. “Our staff and now our ICU are state of the art. This unit makes all that we do much safer and I have no doubt it makes us the envy of IH [Interior Health].
“We will no longer have problems recruiting doctors. Now that we have this, we’re full service. Lives will be saved.”
In his opening address to dignitaries, stakeholders, volunteers and hospital staff, Bennett admitted that the delivery of health care in the East Kootenays is always a challenge, specifically bringing up the closure of the Kimberley and Sparwood and their conversions into clinics many years ago.
Despite those challenges, he touted the value and the access to health care services available at the EKRH.
“We should be really proud of what we have to offer people who need medical help today in this regional hospital,” Bennett said.
When ICU services move to the newly constructed area in April, construction crews will get to work in the old existing ICU area, which will be converted into a new paediatric space, as it is adjacent to the maternity/neo-natal unit.