Health Minister Terry Lake (l) and Transportation Minister Todd Stone at the opening of the new clinical services building at Royal Inland Hospital on September 16.

Royal Inland Hospital expansion will mean increased taxes for all area residents

The planned patient care tower will result in an additional $20 per year tax for at least a decade for all residences in the region.

On September 16—the day that the new $69 million clinical services building at Royal Inland Hospital (RIH) in Kamloops was officially opened—the Thompson Regional Hospital District (TRHD) board approved in principle the contribution of $172 million toward the construction of a proposed new patient care tower, with an estimated cost of between $400 and $430 million. TRHD chair Peter Milobar said that approval of the request would add an average of $20 per year to the property tax bill of every residence in the TRHD’s area.

The new tower would be phase two of a master site plan developed by IH in 2011, which guides the planning of projects there over a 15-year period to 2026. “The planning [of the new tower] is almost complete,” said Health Minister Terry Lake in an address to the board, adding that he hoped the hospital district would see the benefit of the patient care tower.

The proposed nine-storey structure would have a 30-bed medical/surgery inpatient unit, a 30-bed medical/mental health adaptive inpatient unit, a 30-bed mental health inpatient unit, 13 operating rooms, labour delivery, a neonatal intensive care unit, and additional clinical space, as well as retail space, parking, and eventually a helipad on the roof. Also included in the cost of the tower is renovation of the existing building, particularly an extensive upgrade and expansion of the emergency department.

Apart from the clinical services building, the patient care tower would be the largest addition to RIH since construction of the northwest wing in 1988. Lake says that it is hoped construction of the new tower would take place between 2018 and 2021, with the facility open to patients in early 2022. Renovations of the existing building would then take place between 2021 and 2024.

The TRHD pays 40 per cent of the cost of new hospital projects within the region. In 2011, when the master site plan for RIH was approved, the TRHD anticipated that its share of the cost of the patient care tower would amount to approximately $72 million, given the projected cost of the building. Its share of the cost for the clinical services building was pegged at $28 million.

To accommodate the two projects, the TRHD doubled the taxation amount paid by the average assessed residence to $127 per year. However, cost pressures have increased the price tag of the new tower by nearly $150 million, increasing the amount of the TRHD’s contribution. The taxation strategy implemented in 2011 did not anticipate such a large increase in the contribution required, hence the necessity of increasing taxation by $20 per year.

The Journal spoke with Milobar after the TRHD meeting. “A lot of people don’t appreciate that these things come at a cost,” he said of the new facility. He was blunt when it came to the $20 per year cost to households in the region served by the TRHD.

“This is not negotiable. We either approve the $20 [increase] and get [the patient care tower], or we don’t get it. We have to bite the bullet.” When asked how long the extra $20 per year charge will continue, he replied, “It depends on how much we have to borrow and how long for. It will be ten years at least, and it will be reviewed after that according to the amount of the debt and the final payments.

“It’s a significant investment that will allow people to see what modern health care looks like.”

Minister Lake told The Journal that “To have the TRHD commit the funds necessary [for the new tower] is a huge, huge boost. It will have a transformative effect on health care in the entire region. [RIH] is a tertiary hospital that services the entire region, and the new tower will increase capacity for many services, including mental health.”

 

 

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