Directors on the Nanaimo Regional Hospital District Select Committee are mulling strategies to pay for specialized, tertiary services on top of the nearly $3 billion dollars in hospital upgrades proposed by Island Health.
Strategies discussed by the committee at their June 24 meeting included requesting other regional districts to help cover the costs of tertiary-level – essentially high level of care services unavailable at smaller facilities – upgrades to the Nanaimo Regional General Hospital as well as pressuring the province to cover more than their typical 60 per cent for capital projects.
Island Health’s long-term capital plan through 2035 proposes $2.6 billion of total capital funding for 20 projects, including $1.05 billion to replace a patient tower at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital. The Nanaimo Regional Hospital District board already increased taxes by $5 per $100,000 of assessed value this year though staff recommended a higher increase to see more funds set aside in reserve to minimize the amount that future projects would be funded by debt.
Scott McCarten, Island Health’s executive director of finance projects, told the committee those future costs are mainly to sustain existing services while projects like a new cancer clinic and cardiac catheterization lab “is incremental to what we’re asking for.”
Jeannie Bradburne, RDN director of finance, said their investigation into other hospital districts indicated the 60-40 split is typical, though outreach to negotiate a lower share for tertiary services is an option. One district said paying 40 cents on the dollar is worthwhile to them given the economic activity the projects generate through construction and health care jobs.
“We need to be thinking of innovative things and making a strong argument to the province that what was set up many years ago is not reasonable given the current financial situation of just even building costs,” Vanessa Craig, Electoral Area B director, said. “Part of what we’re talking about is the tertiary care, but there’s also some basic hospital improvements, such as the tower, that we would want to do irrespective of tertiary care.”
Craig brought up looking for a benefactor to lead a fundraising campaign as an option.
Ultimately the committee brought forward a motion to write a letter to Premier John Horgan requesting a timeline for fulfillment of his campaign promise to establish a cancer centre at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital; however, the vote was postponed due to a loss of quorum.
Rachelle Stein-Wotten, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Gabriola Sounder