Powell River Regional Hospital District board is recommending borrowing to assist Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) with expenditures at the Powell River hospital complex.
At the January 14 hospital board meeting, manager of financial services Linda Greenan outlined the 2021 regional hospital board budget, which must be adopted no later than March 31.
In her presentation, Greenan outlined a cost share request from VCH for a 40 per cent share in facilities upgrades and renovations, plus major clinical equipment. These included: pharmacy room upgrades, $1.5 million; building envelope repairs at Evergreen extended care, $242,000; second phase of roofing at Evergreen, $200,000; chiller replacement, $1,077,000; roof replacement at Powell River General Hospital, $1.8 million. For major clinical equipment, radiology fluoroscopy, $1.8 million and $100,000 for other equipment.
Total cost of the renovations and equipment is $6.7 million, with the regional hospital board cost share request of $2.7 million.
Greenan said she recommended two options for borrowing. One was borrowing over 10 years and the other was borrowing over 15 years. For 10 years, that would mean total interest payments of $680,000. For 15 years, the total interest would be $1,020,000. With the 10-year option, cost per average residence in the regional hospital district was $49.68 in 2020, rising to $50.95 in 2021 and $64.97 for years 2022. Greenan said that is an increase of $15.29 for the average household from 2020 to 2022.
Electoral Area E director Andrew Fall said he was in favour of the 10-year option for the debt.
“It’s a bit more painful for the taxpayer but seemingly throwing away $340,000 in additional interest doesn’t seem helpful,” said Fall. “I think that’s the best approach.”
Electoral Area C director Clay Brander said he agreed with Fall.
Electoral Area D director Sandy McCormick agreed that the 10-year term was the best way to go. “It’s short term pain for long term gain,” said McCormick.
City director George Doubt asked about the $100,000 for “other” in major clinic equipment.
“We’re seeing it for the first time and I wonder what that $100,000 is for,” said Doubt.
Greenan said that request was considered in camera.
Electoral Area B director Mark Gisborne said he’d like to see an improvement to internet access in the health-care facilities.
“I’ve heard from a number of people that the internet connectivity is not great, especially when our friends and family are there in isolation,” said Gisborne. “It’s hard to communicate with them through Skype or Zoom.”
Hospital board chair CaroleAnn Leishman said that would probably be a new item of business and could maybe go to VCH.
Chief administrative officer Al Radke said that would be a VCH operative.
“We have no idea of what the cost would be to upgrade their facility,” said Radke. “At best, all we could do is write them a letter to consider it in their operating budget.”
The committee carried a motion that it receive and comment on draft one of the proposed 2021 budget for Powell River Regional Hospital District; that the committee recommend the board endorse borrowing $2,687,600 over a 10-year period from the Municipal Finance Authority to provide a contribution to VCH toward a 2021/2022 capital cost share request; that the borrowing bylaw be forwarded to regional hospital district board meeting on January 28 for first reading through adoption.