Green light for new ICU

B.C. budget includes money to replace the Intensive Care Unit at the East Kootenay Regional Hospital.

Hospital board officials and Interior Health staff tour a Mobile Medical Unit that was stationed in Cranbrook last June as temporary relief for the hospital’s cramped and aging Intensive Care Unit. Pictured

Hospital board officials and Interior Health staff tour a Mobile Medical Unit that was stationed in Cranbrook last June as temporary relief for the hospital’s cramped and aging Intensive Care Unit. Pictured

After years of waiting, Cranbrook’s hospital will finally get a new Intensive Care Unit (ICU), says Kootenay East MLA Bill Bennett.

The $20 million project was included in the health care component of this week’s B.C. budget.

“The budget included reference to money for ‘projects at the East Kootenay Regional Hospital’. This means we will get funding for the new ICU – details will be announced at later date,” Bennett said Tuesday.

The announcement was met with excitement by Kootenay East Regional Hospital District board chair John Kettle.

“That is absolutely awesome. I’ve been carrying that cross on my shoulders for the last three years. It’s something we’ve fought for very hard,” said Kettle.

The budget does not spell out exactly how much funding is heading this way, Bennett said.

“The first and most important step in moving this critical regional health care project forward is now behind us, that of ensuring the project is in the province’s fiscal plan. Now, we will determine the details of the project: total cost, number of beds and design.”

Renovations to the four-bed ICU will include mandatory upgrades to the electrical system throughout the hospital to bring it up to the latest CSA standards, Interior Health’s director of business support Todd Mastel said earlier this month. The health authority told the Ministry of Health the total cost would be $19.9 million.

But even if the hospital doesn’t receive that full amount, it’s great news, said John Kettle.

“Any monies that are coming to the hospital for an upgrade of our ICU is a win for our taxpayers,” he said. “My sincere thanks to our board and particularly to Bill Bennett for fighting so hard for us.”

Bennett said he has been working to get funding for the ICU for at least the past four years.

“(Hospital chief) Dr (Lawrence) Jewett and I have had many discussions.

“I played a pivotal role in securing this project being included in the fiscal plan. It was very tough with virtually no money available,” said Bennett.

The ICU renovation is one of the three large projects Cranbrook has been hoping to receive provincial funding for. The other two are a homeless shelter, and a replacement of Mount Baker Secondary School.

Cranbrook Mayor Wayne Stetski said it’s exciting to tick one of those items off the list.

“This is great news for Cranbrook and I’m glad our MLA was able to get it on the list. I think that’s wonderful.

“It’s very much needed for everybody who lives in the East Kootenay.”