A view of the interior of the emergency department at the Arrow Lakes Hospital. The department is now in the initial planning stages for an update. The department hasn’t had any updates since the hospital was built in 1975.

Funding for Arrow Lakes emergency ward?

Local MLA coming to Nakusp to make announcement

The provincial government is set to make an “important announcement” about the Arrow Lakes Hospital.

Local MLA and Minister for Children and Family Development Katrine Conroy will be in Nakusp on Friday with officials from Interior Health to make the announcement.

It’s likely about funding to update the 40-year-old emergency ward at the hospital.

Nakusp Mayor Karen Hamling said in November she was expecting a decision on funding for the upgrades — estimated at $2.1 million — would be made early in the new year.

Local politicians and Interior Health have been involved in a spat over funding for the project for several years.

In October, Interior Health asked the West Kootenay Regional Hospital Board to fund the whole cost of the project. Hamling sits on the board as the Nakusp representative.

“They came to us, said how important it was that the renovations get done at Arrow Lakes Hospital for the safety of staff and patients,” recalled Hamling. “Then they asked us to fund the whole 100 per cent of the $2.1 million.”

Traditionally, the regional board only pays 40 per cent, while the provincial health authority picks up the rest. There’s no official cost-sharing formula.

“They said they didn’t have the money because the ministry had cut back on their funding,” says Hamling. “We said, ‘No, we only fund 40 per cent.’”

Hamling says the request was particularly galling after Interior Health had asked the board in July to pay 40 per cent of the $17 million needed for renovations at the Trail hospital. The board agreed, expecting IH would also proceed with the long-overdue Arrow Lakes project.

“We were a bit upset at that — and it was a unanimous decision on the board’s part that [Arrow Lakes] was a top priority,” she told Arrow Lakes News at the time.

Hamling took the issue to Conroy in November to break the gridlock, and said she had received positive signals from the minister.

The three-stage renovations to the emergency room would see two new trauma bays, new exam rooms, storage, a washroom and upgrades to the electrical system.

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