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Kootenay hospital replacement planning on hold

Kootenay Lake Hospital, which has seen major upgrades to its emergency room in recent years, isn
Kootenay Lake Hospital, which has seen major upgrades to its emergency room in recent years, isn't on Interior Health's radar for further capital improvements in the short term.
— image credit: Nelson Star file photo

Interior Health says a regional planning process to refurbish or replace old hospitals in West Kootenay Boundary remains two to three years away but in the meantime it’s considering improvements to the layout of the regional hospital in Trail.

Todd Mastel, the health authority’s business support director, and Ingrid Hampf, acute health services administrator, delivered the news to the regional hospital district last week.

“We’re not in a position to start regional planning based on the availability of capital dollars,” Mastel said. “But we do need to look at current pressures and challenges at Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital, especially in ambulatory care, pharmacy, and emergency services.”

It comes after a report last November indicated that a thorough overhaul of the Trail hospital would cost about $44 million while replacing it within its existing footprint would cost about $84 million. Kootenay Lake Hospital in Nelson, meanwhile, could use about $30 million worth of repairs and has an estimated replacement value of $63 million.

But Mastel said it doesn’t make sense to start planning their replacements knowing they would be a long way from securing provincial funding. Cost estimates and other information would likely get dated, he said.

“The interim measure of looking at what we need to do to sustain regional services in Trail is the next best step. Knowing functional needs at all of our sites, it is the next priority for the health authority within Kootenay Boundary.”

For instance, Mastel said despite the addition of an ambulatory care wing in 2001, those services are provided at several locations throughout the facility. They would prefer to have everything in one place.

Hampf said the health authority will pay for the planning, which is in its very early stages. Eventually the hospital district will be asked to kick in 40 per cent of the capital cost.

“We are going to see if there are opportunities to improve our flow,” Hampf said. “Interior Health is committed to putting those operating dollars in.”

She said by the hospital board’s next meeting in June they should have a better handle on timeframes and other details, but a final proposal won’t be ready till fall.

Rural Castlegar director Gord Zaitsoff said he was disappointed to hear the larger planning process is on hold, as he expected it would be underway by now.

(Castlegar has hired former city manager and regional district administrator Jim Gustafson to gather input from local governments in the region on a strategic plan for acute care, but Nelson and Trail both declined to take part for fear of upsetting the status quo.)

Nelson mayor John Dooley asked if any improvements are planned for Kootenay Lake Hospital but was told that since it recently received a new emergency room, the health authority is now focusing on Trail.

The hospital board also urged Interior Health to get on with upgrades to the emergency room at Arrow Lakes Hospital in Nakusp. The project didn’t make it onto this year’s list of funding requests, but remains on the books for next year.

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