East Kootenay Regional Hospital in Cranbrook. Google maps photo

Regional hospital board planning for large infrastructure projects

The regional hospital board is planning for large infrastructure projects on the horizon in Cranbrook, and neighbouring communities in the East Kootenay.

In 2020, the Kootenay East Regional Hospital District Board approved a increase in taxation after holding steady for several years with an eye towards those larger infrastructure projects, according to a news release.

“This plan included taxation increases of $30 on the average residential property in each year 2020, 2021 and 2022,” said Holly Ronnquist, the Chief Financial Officer. “Planning ahead for these large capital infrastructure projects now will reduce the amount of borrowing in the future and put monies saved on interest to these important projects.”

For large capital projects, funding costs are split between the province at 60 per cent share, and the KERHD at 40 per cent.

One of the larger projects that may be in the works is the potential expansion of the F.W. Green Home, a long-term care facility that currently has 60 beds. Interior Health is conducting a business plan for the facility that would add 70 more beds for a total of 130.

That business study is expected to be completed in the coming weeks, and the KERHD board is anticipating its cost-share of a proposed expansion to reach $24 million. Once the business plan is formally presented to to the board, directors will debate and decide on options presented by staff.

Three years ago, the KERHD board also passed a motion to support larger projects at the East Kootenay Regional Hospital, specifically for microbiology laboratory, pharmacy expansion, renal dialysis and oncology.

While pharmacy renovations are currently underway and budgeted at $3 million, with $1.2 million cost-share coming from the KERHD, further dialogue with Interior Health remains ongoing towards the other three identified areas of the hospital.

Although no dollar amount has been formally committed, the KERHD cost-share is estimated to be over $100 million.

Hospital facilities in Golden and Fernie have not seen significant infrastructure investment over the last 20 years, but the KERHD is expecting to fund its cost-share of anticipated renewal projects in the future.

KERHD taxation of an average residential property assessed at $326,743 is $104 this year, according to the organization.

“With property taxes arriving in mailboxes over the next few weeks, we felt it was important to communicate with residents within the KERHD boundary to let them know what to expect on their tax notice this year and the important projects those funds support,” said Ronnquist.

The KERHD jurisdiction covers Creston to the Alberta border and north to Golden, including the Columbia Valley and Elk Valley. It is comprised of elected officials from municipalities and rural electoral areas, while administrative duties are carried out by the Regional District of East Kootenay.