The Kootenay East Regional Hospital District Board (KERHD) formally approved its 2019 budget, including more than $2.79 million of funding requests from Interior Health (IH) and a 2 percent tax increase to residential properties.
Hearing IH's 2019/2020 Capital Funding Requests on Friday, the KERHD Board approved the requested funds, also incorporating its first direct tax increase to residents in more than seven years.
"The only increase we've ever had over the last seven years was the new builds, all of the new builds in the communities, so that's a tax increase for us that we received," Dean McKerracher told Summit 107, Chair of the KERHD Board. "That's been $40 a year, $39 a year, for seven years per household, so to go to $42 a year, that's peanuts really for one residential."
The $42 is an average figure for each residential property within the KERHD, based on an average home value of approximately $350,000.
Interior Health requested $2.79 million in funding as part of the 2019 budget, mostly with major funding commitments at Cranbrook's East Kootenay Regional Hospital (EKRH).
The largest funding request was $580,000 for the planned renovation of EKRH's Pharmacy.
"The Pharmacy is a must and it has to be done by May of 2021," said McKerracher. "Although, it is just a number there because we don't have the Master Plan Study finished yet."
Interior Health informed the KERHD that they wouldn't proceed with renovations to EKRH's Oncology, Dialysis, Pharmacy or Laboratory until the completion of a Master Plan. The committed funds would most likely not be used in 2019 but carried over until the Pharmacy is ready to be renovated, which has to be completed by 2021 as per new national guidelines and standards.
More: Interior Health Approves EKRH Master Plan to Upgrade Oncology and Pharmacy (December 11, 2018)
Other significant funding requests from IH were for Medistations and Interior Health's Pyxis Replacement at both EKRH and Creston Valley Hospital ($518,000), various upgrades across the region to Interior Health's Information Technology ($379,800), and various Surgical Information Systems across the region ($270,000).
"The ask is a little bit bigger this year than last year, each year it gets a little bigger," said McKerracher. "We may have to ask more from our taxpayers but the service that we're receiving for those tax dollars, I think, are well worth it."
"We're supplying more and more service to our residents all of the time," added McKerracher. "As we expand the service at the hospital and the health care facilities in our region, we're going to have to have more budgets and more finances to help those facilities operate."
The KERHD Board's 2019 Budget totals just over $6.08 million, including the $2.79 million funding requests from Interior Health and $3.29 million of outstanding and ongoing funds for EKRH's new ICU expansion and MRI from the past couple of years.
Audio: Dean McKerracher, KERHD Board Chair