Our regional hospital
I am reporting out to my constituents on the status of our East Kootenay Regional Hospital, a hospital where you and your loved ones can go to in confidence, unlike in the past. When I was first elected in 2001, I told the Premier of BC the top priority of my constituents was healthcare and specifically, we deserved a fully funded, fully equipped, fully staffed regional hospital so that patients and their families could be spared the cost and inconvenience of having to travel so often to Alberta or Kelowna.
In 2000, Maclean’s magazine described the terrible state of rural healthcare in Canada. Our regional hospital was featured with photos as the poster child for dysfunctional rural Canadian hospitals. I took the time to be educated about our regional needs by Doctors Ross Dawson, Alex Chan, Abe Zacharias and RN Chris Ondrik. I told the Premier what was needed and over the next 8 years, most of what we needed we received. Of course, it didn’t happen easily. There is never enough money to meet all the needs in such a large, diverse province. I had to get my elbows up on numerous occasions over the years to come up with over $50 million for our hospital.
Today, we have a new ER, a new Ambulatory Care ward, new Diagnostics centre and many other new, improved features. It is gratifying to speak with most medical professionals, patients and families today about how wonderful the regional hospital is. We have so many specialists, so much expensive equipment, and so many competent people who provide high quality care to us.
However, there is one component of the hospital that still needs replacement, the Intensive Care Unit. The ICU is where a patient is placed when the patient is in need of the highest level of care. Our current ICU is small, cramped and under-equipped and although EKRH staff and doctors perform marvelously in our ICU, a new ICU would mean fewer patients transferred out of our region; fewer patients kept in the ER; better recruitment and retention of health professionals; and more appropriate clinical care.
This project also includes a major upgrade of the hospital’s electrical system plus a new back-up electrical supply system of two 750 km generators for when the power goes off. The East Kootenay Hospital District has generously agreed to pay 40% of the project cost, which is currently estimated at $22 million.
There are many more healthcare amenities that we need in Kootenay East. The OR at the Fernie hospital should be strengthened. We need more support to keep healthy seniors in their homes. We need more affordable housing for seniors. We need to provide all four years of a registered nursing program at College of the Rockies. We need more family doctors in our communities. And there are still services that we can add to our regional hospital. I look forward to working hard to meet all of these needs.