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VCH seeks funds from Powell River Regional Hospital District

Vancouver Coastal Health explains commitment it is asking for regarding capital projects
SPECIAL MEETING: Vancouver Coastal Health representatives answered questions from Powell River Regional Hospital District directors regarding a request for capital funds to help underwrite projects for 2024 at qathet General Hospital.

Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) is looking for nearly $1.5 million from Powell River Regional Hospital District in 2024 to help fund five capital projects

At the November 23 special meeting of the hospital district, directors heard a presentation from VCH representatives regarding the requested cost share for capital projects in 2024, which amounts to $1.467,690. The projects include upgrading dumbwaiters, pharmacy room upgrades, emergency department triage upgrades, a patient monitoring system and a surgical video system.

City of Powell River director and hospital board chair George Doubt said the special meeting was called to hear from VCH, mostly about the cost-sharing plans.

qathet Regional District (qRD) Electoral Area D director Sandy McCormick said the cost share requests were worthy but there seems to be a disconnect between the request and taxpayers’ ability to pay.

“You have a number of capital projects going on within the regional hospital district and taxpayers are now pretty strapped,” said McCormick. “We are basically asking local government taxpayers to make up for what I consider to be provincial downloading. A lot of these requests seem to be operations and maintenance and upgrading.

“I’m concerned because of those financial pressures on our taxpayers and I’m concerned VCH is not really recognizing that when they come up with a million dollars-worth of requests, we haven’t paid off the last requests yet. I don’t want to see debt compounding.”

Sean Parr, VCH associate vice-president for corporate services, said McCormick’s statement was relevant and it is foremost for the hospital district on how it is impacting its mandate.

“We are working through some historical guidelines but it is an active conversation,” said Parr. “Capital is a partnership. We have guidelines and we have rules and expectations. We have partnerships with many different funding groups, in terms of the ministry of health, foundations, regional hospital districts – a long list.

“Sometimes we can get targeted funding from government for certain things and other times they might say there is no money available. We are trying to find the right balance working through the mandate of a regional hospital district, but also being cognizant that it is a small town.”

Parr said that this district is not alone feeling the financial pressure. He said there is a list of capital projects that completely dwarf the available funding.

“We want to have a conversation with you because we know we can’t afford to do all the things we want to do, so how do we have the right priorities?” asked Parr. “We definitely have priorities that come our way that we know we want to address to make our care in the hospital better.”

Current projects

Electoral Area A director Jason Lennox asked if there was any work currently going on in the hospital.

Sam Samsami, VCH director of planning and projects, said there is a pharmacy upgrade. The work has begun for the project, which Samsami said was much needed to make sure it meets standards. He said the current pharmacy is constrained in terms of space.

The second project is modernizing clean and dirty dumbwaiters, which are small elevators that serve the operating rooms, said Samsami. The hospital is waiting to receive the dumbwaiters, he said.

Parr said the list of upgrades for the VCH system runs into the hundreds of millions of dollars and VCH does not have the funding for that.

“We are doing the best we can,” said Parr. “We are doing everything we can to maximize our dollars for all the different projects. There are tough conversations.”

qathet General Hospital director of operations Michelle Hanna said new guidelines and best practices come out and the hospital needs to make sure the equipment and technology is keeping pace so clinicians can provide the best quality care.

qRD manager of financial services Linda Greenan said the hope moving forward is to get earlier notice of how much funding VCH is looking for in cost-sharing requests.

McCormick asked if the hospital district can put a cap on what it can pay and then VCH, knowing what that figure is, can work with that.

Doubt said the board has the capacity to limit the cost share. Parr agreed that was at the board’s discretion.

Treatment options

Electoral Area B director Mark Gisborne asked about moving Powell River Regional Hospital District to the Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA). He said people are being sent to Vancouver, two ferry rides away, when people can go to Vancouver Island, taking one ferry for appointments.

Doubt said the questions he hears about from the public about going to Vancouver for some things and Vancouver Island for other things.

“I see people locally looking for a place to discuss treatment options with VCH and where they can find the best care and how that can best be done,” said Doubt. “It can make a real difference if you are asked to go to a specialist appointment in Vancouver or to go to Vancouver Island. Where is there an opportunity for a voice?”

Parr said changing boundaries would likely be a ministerial order.

Hanna said it is important to the community to access care as close as possible and that is a shared commitment across the board. If a referral is needed out of town, it’s important to consider where the closest place is that can offer that service, she added.

Hanna said work is being done with Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA) on how to work together so clients can access care when needed.

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