Many tenants at the Kimberley Health Centre have been informed that their rents are going up substantially, and some non-profit tenants have been told that they must begin paying rent.
The Health Centre, located on 4th Avenue in the former Kimberley hospital building, is owned by and operated by the Kimberley Health Centre Society. The city purchased the building after the provincial government closed the hospital in 2002.
Physiotherapist Karen Cornish has operated a private clinic in the Health Centre building for the last five years. She says the Health Centre Society has always been supportive, allowing her to pay what she could through the beginnings of COVID as her business went down the about 26 per cent of what it was. It is now up to about 75 per cent of what it was and she says she can’t get it to 100 per cent because of the enhanced cleaning measures. There simply isn’t time to see more patients.
However, she says she was just recently informed that her rent will be going from $2100 to $3500 on January 1, 2022. She has to decide in three weeks whether she can swing that or whether she will have to shut down.
She says physio services in Kimberley are much needed. She herself has a waiting list of six weeks at all times.
“The mandate of this building is to provide health services to this community and it is a non-profit society,” Cornish said. “I don’t understand why I’ve been given this ultimatum. I can understand rent going up, but by that much and with such short notice? What am I supposed to do?”
Also at risk is the Loan Cupboard program, an offshoot of the Health Care Auxiliary, run completely by volunteers and dependent on donations to buy medical equipment to lend to people when they need it. They have been informed that they must begin paying rent, and as they have no income they don’t know how they will do it.
Cornish says she’s been physiotherapist for 37 years, and the Kimberley Loan Cupboard is the best she’s ever seen.
“They are in two rooms in the basement, that aren’t rentable to anyone else. Storage is part of the electrical room, so it’s horrible,” Cornish said. “The hospital board let them have that space for free as they lend out that equipment for free, an incredible service for the community.
“They are now getting asked for $1600 a month and they run off donations. They take in approximately $500 a month, so it’s likely they will cease to exist as well.”
The Bulletin spoke to representatives from the Loan Cupboard and they confirmed that while they are trying to negotiate with the Health Centre Society, they are indeed in danger of shutting their doors if they have to pay that much rent.
Also facing having to pay rent is the Food Recovery Depot.
Ilona Hale from the Kimberley Wellness Foundation confirms that they must start paying rent.
“The Food Recovery Depot was also asked to pay rent which they will start doing soon,” Hale said. “The negotiated rate is something we hope we can sustain long term with enough external operational funding (such as BC Gaming funding). If not, we are hopeful that the Health Centre Society board will be flexible and understanding of our situation.”
Cornish is unsure how she can fight the rent increase.
“How do I fight this? I’ve been told by my patients and some of my other contacts that I can’t do this by myself, I need to have the community behind me to help me. I’m here for my patients and I’m here for the community and how can I do this if they boot me out.
“I think people need to contact the board themselves, or join the health society board, but in the meantime if they could just write letters of support to the health society. The thing is I don’t have much time, it’s like Merry Christmas. Even if I could move where would I move to?”
The Kimberley Health Centre Society has released a press release on the issue. You can read the full release here.
“While the central focus of the Centre will always be to support health services in Kimberley, we are now broadening our mandate to allow other compatible businesses to lease space in the building,” the release says. “That decision is already bearing fruit and unoccupied spaces in the lower floor are filling up. At the same time, we are reviewing our current lease rate structure in light of what it actually costs to keep the building running and that has resulted in discussions with some tenants about increases in their rates. In the past we have provided free space to non-profit groups and reduced rents for some tenants during the Covid pandemic but that cannot continue. No tenant has been threatened with eviction and we fully expect that our initial discussions, which we admit were likely a bit shocking to tenants, will lead to further negotiations and (we hope) a mutually acceptable resolution.”