Hospital board removes reserve cap

Hospital board agrees to do away with reserve cap.

Capping rainy day funds at $10 million was considered superfluous.

So in the end, the hospital board did away with the limit all together, says Trail Mayor Mike Martin.

“The cap is actually a redundant step in the process because approval is given by the same body,” he explained. “It was a double step, given the fact it was the hospital board that put the cap in place then actually voted on what they are going to put in reserves,” Martin added. “Rather than having a cap on reserve funding as a mechanism of control, (instead the mechanism of control) is how much the board elects to put in the reserve fund in any given year.”

The funds can be used for any project exceeding $2 million within the West Kootenay Regional Hospital District (WKRHD) boundary, but as part of its decision the board agreed to an addendum.

“Right now there’s no definitive plan in place…we asked for the IHA (Interior Health Authority) to provide a five-year facility and equipment capital forecast,” Martin explained. “Much the same as we, a municipality, are required to put together a five-year forecast. We’ve asked, and it’s been agreed that IHA will supply that.”

Another consensus was to reserve $1.72 million and not raise taxes this year (average homeowners pay about $32 annually).

“This goes back to the previous meeting and a very robust discussion on the whole matter of reserve versus borrowing,” he clarified. “From my perspective that was a very healthy debate and put a lot of interesting perspectives on the table.”

Reserves currently sit at $9.3 million and will exceed $11 million in 2016.

With one vote against removing the cap, Martin says the strong support shows a united interest in moving ahead with the $40 million Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital (KBRH) upgrades to ambulatory care, the emergency department, and pharmacy.

The 30-member group showed solidarity for the multi-million dollar undertaking in another way.

“I asked the hospital board to write a letter to Minister Terry Lake (B.C.’s Minister of Health), advocating for the immediate advancement of the Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital service priority renovation project,” Martin said.

Support was unanimous, which would allow Interior Health to advance the planning process as the first step towards establishing the final cost estimate and approval to proceed with construction, he added.

“That’s another very important small step, but I think is a huge testament to the collaboration that is happening at the regional district hospital board right now.”

That letter in addition to a letter drawn up by the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary, and possibly one from the Central Kootenay board, are signs that KBRH renovations are a priority, Martin emphasized.

“What we are really trying to set up is a strong advocacy of all the stakeholders in the hospital district,” he said, noting KBRH services 80,000 people in the region. “And bring to the attention of the ministry that this is the most important project and needs to be advanced immediately. It’s been sitting on the table for far too long and it really needs to get the attention it deserves.”

Karen Hamling, mayor of Nakusp, said the cap removal is to give the WKRHD the ability to build up reserves so they can cover the cost of repairs and maintenance to the existing facilities within the hospital board area.

“By being able to put what we can away into the reserves, it will make it easier for the tax payer of the future,” she said.