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Posted: August 9, 2021

KERHD approves care centre funding after addressing slight

The Kootenay East Regional Hospital District (KERHD) board of directors August 6 aired some grievances and offered the provincial government and Interior Health Authority some thoughts on respecting taxpayers before voting to approve $1.2 million in funding for a new urgent and primary care centre (UPCC) in Cranbrook.

The discussion and vote followed a presentation by Todd Mastel, Interior Health’s corporate director of business operations, who outlined a request of $1.2 million in capital funding from the KERHD for the recently announced care centre coming to Baker Street Mall in Cranbrook.

Announced August 4 by Health Minister Adrian Dix and Dr. Doug Cochrane, board chair of Interior Health Authority, the Cranbrook UPCC is a collaboration between Interior Health, the Ministry of Health, the East Kootenay Division of Family Practice and the Ktunaxa Nation. This UPCC is part of the East Kootenay Primary Care Network (PCN).

KERHD Board Chair Dean McKerracher

While noting he understands the need for the service, KERHD board chair Dean McKerracher also noted, “Our board was not included in the announcement, nor were the 80,654 resident taxpayers” who will provide the $1.2 million ask (40% of the cost of the project), outside the usual budgeting process.

“There is some disgust and disappointment with the Minister of Health and the chair, Doug Cochrane of Interior Health, for neglecting to announce also that Kootenay East Regional Hospital District board and taxpayers are funding this facility. The Minister of Health will tell you, ‘no, the provincial government is funding this.’ But guess what? We are the taxpayer. Out of the left pocket you pay provincial taxes, which pays the 60% and out of the right pocket we are the taxpayers of the East Kootenay Regional Hospital District paying 40% and in my numbers those are 100% funded from our taxpayers in this region,” McKerracher said.

“Until this board receives an apology” from the province and IH, he added he would vote against providing the $1.2 million from the KERHD.

McKerracher also noted to Mastel to not take the criticism personally. “We know you’re just the messenger,” he said.

Other KERHD board directors also expressed disappointment.

KERHD Electoral Area A director Mike Sosnowski agreed with Chair McKerracher.

“It was only last meeting where we expressed disappointment with not being in the loop and they go and do it again. They’re not listening.”

Electoral Area F Director Susan Clovechok said the lack of inclusion of the board in the announcement was “disappointing” and the announcement could have been delayed a few days to coincide with the KERHD board meeting, especially considering the post budget discussion ask to help with an unplanned $3 million capital project.

“We have the opportunity to have closed meetings where we could have these discussions if the information has to be kept quiet for a time. We have the tools and we could have been informed and we could have set a budget appropriately,” she said.

However, she noted she understands the need for the centre “because I think it is important work.”

Town of Golden Director Chris Hambruch said the UPCC announcement was “very short-sighted. I can’t support it. We try to plan for the future. I think it’s time to say no,” he said, noting the KERHD Reserves Fund, from which the $1.2 million would be drawn, shouldn’t be used for such surprises.

“Minister Dix needs a real wake-up call on this one,” said Electoral Area B Director Stan Doehle.

Mastel told the board its concerns would be relayed.

The board approved the funding, with Chair McKerracher and directors Hambruch and Sosnowski voting against.

The UPCC is expected to be opening in November at 1311-2nd Street.

When fully operational, it is anticipated that the centre’s team of clinical health-care professionals will include doctors, nurse practitioners, registered nurses, mental wellness clinicians, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, social workers, Aboriginal health co-ordinators and a clinical pharmacist. Up to 22 full-time staff are expected to be in place at the seven-days-a-week centre.

The centre will be open to all residents of the East Kootenay.

Ian Cobb/e-KNOW

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