Council and regional district directors are battling against a new Interior Health Authority (IHA) initiative they say would create a “two-tier health system” in the Interior.
Area K director Paul Peterson said IHA is using a new “bonus points system” which would give priority to hospitals in regions that pay for more than their mandated share.
The West Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital Board (WKBRHB) is obliged to pay for 40 per cent of the cost for capital projects.
Peterson says therefore regions that pay more will most likely have their proposals approved, giving priority to areas that can afford it. He says this would leave smaller areas such as Nakusp less likely to be funded for new health care projects.
The issue was also brought forward by Nakusp mayor Karen Hamling during the regular meeting on Feb. 8.
Hamling asked council to support writing a letter to IHA to put a stop to this points system.
“Kelowna and Kamloops are within our own area,” Hamling said. “So say if Trail all of a sudden comes up with a whack of money and wants things in their hospital, they’ll get it.”
“We have a concern it will create a two-tier system,” she added.
Council agreed and voted to send a letter to IHA.
Peterson said this all speaks to the bigger issue at hand – downloading of provincial responsibility to the smaller levels of government.
“That’s the whole bottom line,” he said. “This used to be a federal responsibility, then they downloaded it to the provinces. Now the provinces love to download this to municipal governments. But we got nobody left. Who are we going to download it to?”
Peterson submitted a resolution to the RDCK board of directors in protest of this new bonus point system.
In it, Peterson explains his points. It reads: “The provincial government has now created capital projects priority criteria that grants up to twenty bonus points to regional hospital boards that are prepared to fund up to 90 per cent of capital projects cost.”
“And whereas such policies will create a two-tier medical facilities situation in B.C. between those regional hospital boards that can afford to raise more capital via higher property taxes and those boards that cannot,” he added.
The RDCK passed his resolution and sent it to the Association of Kootenay and Boundary Local Governments. If it gets passed there, it will move on to the Union of British Columbia Municipalities.
“This allows us to speak as a collective voice to the Province,” Peterson said.
Already, Peterson has seen the WKBRHB start paying for items he says they don’t have to.
“At our last meeting [Feb. 10] there were three items on the budget that’s not our mandate to help pay for,” Peterson said.
The items at hand were three elder care facilities in Trail, Nelson and Castlegar. The total cost the hospital board agreed to pay was $86,600, which would equal to a few pennies of property tax.
“IHA said that they would be doing it for sure anyway,” Peterson said. “It’s the principal of the matter.”
It doesn’t make sense for the board to pay for facilities that will be paid for already, Peterson added.
Despite multiple calls, messages and emails, no one from IHA commented on the issue before press deadline.