The mayor of Nakusp is confident a spat over funding for renovations to the Arrow Lakes Hospital emergency room will be over soon.
Karen Hamling says her recent meeting with MLA Katrine Conroy — who is also a member of cabinet — found a sympathetic ear.
“We should hear by end of December or January,” said Hamling. “The minister is quite supportive.”
At issue is paying for $2.1 million in renovations to the 40-year-old emergency facility in Nakusp.
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 said.
Hamling says if the board had known supporting the $17-million Trail upgrades was going to come at the expense of Arrow Lakes, the regional board may have had second thoughts.
“I don’t have an issue with them working on Trail,” she said. “It’s our regional hospital. But I do have an issue if they are going to throw Nakusp aside for Trail, I have an issue with that.”
Hamling took the issue to Conroy earlier this month. The Kootenay West MLA is also Minister of Children and Family Development in the new NDP government.
“I asked her if she could talk to the [Health] minister and see what could be done,” said Hamling. “I’m hoping that we’ll hear something in December or January, whether we get some funding to go ahead with Arrow Lakes.”
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.
Hamling says to reinforce its stand, the board voted last week to send a message to Interior Health.
“We passed a bylaw that allows 40 per cent funding for Arrow Lakes and 40 per cent funding for Trail,” said Hamling. “So they know we’re prepared to put our 40 per cent forward and were very serious about this.”
She says she doesn’t know why Interior Health was trying to get the regional body to cover the whole cost.
“I guess it was worth a try,” she said. “But when they’ve asked us before on another item if we’d pay the whole amount, we said no.”