Planning for a new regional hospital — wherever it might be built — remains a long way off.

Provincial review holds up regional hospital plan

Planning for a new regional hospital to serve the West Kootenay Boundary has been delayed by a review of all health care facilities in BC.

Planning for a new regional hospital to serve the West Kootenay Boundary has been delayed by a review of all health care facilities in the province — but the chair of the regional hospital district says it may not be a bad thing.

Marguerite Rotvold says while the hospital district was hoping for word by now on when Interior Health would begin the long-term evaluation for a replacement hospital, that’s now on hold pending the broader study.

“The planning process within the West Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital District has been set back because the Ministry of Health has mandated a review of all hospitals within the province,” she says. “That’s going to supersede the plan and the process for the Kootenay Boundary region.”

Previously, Interior Health indicated a decision would be made in September or October of this year around getting started. It’s expected such a project could take 2½ to three years just to reach the formal planning stage

The hospital board has begun saving $1 million per year toward the new hospital, even though they don’t know when or where it will be built.

The overall price tag is not known either, but expected to be at least $50 million.

Rotvold feels the delay is actually positive, “because I think the government is trying to come up with five or ten year planning process for all hospitals.

“This is a way of trying to set up that process by reviewing to see where they’re at. How many need to be replaced? How many can be upgraded? A provincial-wide process will give them a better picture for planning.”

She says the hospital district has asked for five-year planning in the past, but it has never come to fruition.

Ministry of Health communications director Michelle Stewart confirmed the province has issued a request for proposals to come up with information to help their long-term capital planning, “and ensure that government facilities, and specifically the health sector’s facilities continue to meet the needs of British Columbians.”

The contractor to be hired will assess about 500 buildings, identifying and providing estimates for work required to maintain and update them.

“Neither the ministry nor health authorities have in-house expertise to consistently assess all health facilities,” Stewart said in an email.

“Investing in the professional service of architects, professional engineers and quantity surveyors will ensure we are making informed choices when identifying capital projects.”

The audit will cover all health facilities across the province — including hospitals, health care centres, and community care facilities — and is expected to take up to five years to complete, with about 20 per cent of the buildings assessed each year.

The review is in line with a requirement for ministries to establish and maintain inventories of their facilities and physical conditions.

(This story will appear in the October 27 edition of the West Kootenay Advertiser.)

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