Budget fails Kootenay West riding, says MLA

Katrine Conroy, NDP MLA for Kootenay West talks to the Trail Times about the province's 2017 budget.

Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital's $40-million renovation plan was not listed as a project covered under the province's $2.7 billion capital health projects plan for 2017.

Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital's $40-million renovation plan was not listed as a project covered under the province's $2.7 billion capital health projects plan for 2017.

A $2.7 billion budget for health care projects in B.C. is nothing to sneeze at.

The fact that not one penny is coming to Kootenay Boundary for critical upgrades to the regional hospital? Well that news is not something the Kootenay West MLA is willing to wipe away for the 80,000 people living in the health service area.

“There’s nothing for Trail, nothing,” NDP MLA Katrine Conroy told the Trail Times. “It’s the only facility in the entire Interior Health Authority that hasn’t gotten the influx of cash that everyone else has for upgrades, and that’s appalling.”

Conroy was talking about the $40-million sustainability plan for Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital (KBRH). The phased-in project has been on the books for years, Interior Health has listed it a priority and the West Kootenay Regional Hospital board has gone above and beyond to advance the critical upgrades.

“I raised it in my throne speech just before the budget was released,” Conroy emphasized. “I ranted about that and a few other things. I did say, forgive me for being cynical but when you are elected, you work for everybody.”

The Ministry of Health (MoH) will see a three-year increase of $4.2 billion compared to the 2016/2017 base budget, according to the provincial release. That includes funding to support the province’s $100 million three-year enhancement in services to mental health and substance use issues, particularly for youth.

NDP MLA for Kootenay West, Katrine Conroy

Additionally, the ministry confirmed the 2017 budget includes $2.7 billion in health capital projects including new patient care towers at Penticton Regional Hospital and the Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops.

But nothing for the regional hospital that sits atop an East Trail bench, just yet.

The Trail Times reached out to Trail Mayor Mike Martin as he was flying to the coast on Wednesday. Martin is a strong and vocal advocate for the regional hospital project, he remains optimistic because of the overall health budget increase.

“The city is most encouraged by the significant increase in the Provincial Health Budget and this clearly creates capacity for the KBRH project to be considered, Martin replied via email.

“While not specifically identified given the relatively small dollar value as compared to some of the specific projects noted in the budget, the IHA and province are well aware of KBRH and the needs at this hospital.”

The city will continue to work with the regional hospital board, its executive, Interior Health and MoH to take every opportunity to speak to the merits of the project and why it should be funded, Martin concluded.

“It is encouraging that the province has increased the healthcare budget so significantly and we hope that some sort of an announcement will be forthcoming.”

Trail Mayor Mike Martin

Martin is in Victoria this week as part of the BC Mayors’ Caucus. He said a meeting with provincial officials was scheduled in hopes they could provide additional information now that the budget has been tabled.

The Kootenay West NDP MLA says the party hasn’t had adequate time to drill down the budget, but she noted other omissions.

“They don’t mention seniors at all, and we all know what is happening with Home Support in our region,” said Conroy. “And there’s the fact they had to cancel surgeries in our region just a couple of weeks ago because there were no beds,” she added. “We know there are people waiting for placement and we know there are beds in the region but the government will not fund IHA to fund those beds. It’s incredibly frustrating.”

Conroy was also in transit, heading to Columbia River Treaty conference. She mentioned one positive, the reduction in interest on student interest loans, but maintains the budget reflects that 2017 is an election year.

“We are all on the campaign trail and that is what this is about,” Conroy said. “This is her ‘forget everything budget,’ she wants you to forget all those years of not getting home support and forget all the years you paid more for your MSP and car insurance.”

Costs continue to rise for the average B.C. family, she continued.

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