South-end hospital planning funded

  • Nov. 30, 2009 4:00 p.m.

Planning and design of the long-awaited new south-end hospital will start soon after an innovative funding agreement was reached at the North West Regional Hospital District table, says Queen Charlotte mayor Carol Kulesha. “It’s very good news for the south end,” Ms Kulesha said. “This is the hospital we all use.” Although the existing hospital in Queen Charlotte is a well-loved landmark, it is close to 60 years old and is not set up for modern innovations like telemedicine, she said. Replacing the Queen Charlotte hospital is number one on both Northern Health’s and the North West Regional Hospital District’s lists of capital projects, Ms Kulesha said, but the project was not moving forward because the cash-strapped provincial government is not making any money available for new hospitals. But after meeting personally with Minister of Health Services Kevin Falcon at the Union of BC Municipalities convention two months ago, Ms Kulesha won his support to start the planning and design process right now. Usually, planning and design is paid for by the province, but in this case, the North West Regional Hospital District will provide the $2.7-million needed, Ms Kulesha said. Hospital district directors from all over northwestern BC voted unanimously Nov. 20 to prepare a bylaw making the money available for the planning and design phase. “The North West Regional Hospital District has been so supportive of us,” she said. “Everyone at the meeting gave a little round of applause after the motion passed.” Usually, the hospital district funds 40 percent of the building costs of new hospitals, with the provincial government providing the other 60 percent. The hospital district’s money comes from property taxes. The decision to go ahead with planning and design using hospital district money won’t cost the hospital district any more in the long run, Ms Kulesha said. The province has agreed to credit the district with these funds during the building phase, so it will end up contributing less than 40 percent of the construction costs. “This was a way of moving it forward that’s different,” she said. Ms Kulesha said support from the Skidegate Band Council as well as the other island directors on the hospital district board (the mayors of Masset and Port Clements, and the directors for Areas D and E) was instrumental, and she thanked them. The $2.7-million will pay for a complete design, plan and engineering for the building, meaning that Queen Charlotte will be ready to hit the shovels as soon as capital dollars are approved for the project. Ms Kulesha said it may not cost that entire amount, but that much money will be available just in case. Once the money is available, it will be up to Northern Health to decide how to move ahead with hiring planners and engineers, she said.