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Hospital project breaks ground

Officials celebrate the start of construction at East Kootenay Regional Hospital of a new Intensive Care Unit, Friday, May 16. Pictured, left to right: Dean McKerracher, vice chair, Kootenay East Regional Hospital District; John Kettle, chair, Kootenay East Regional Hospital District; Christine Shumka, (hospital services director); Bill Bennett, Kootenay East MLA; Dr. Lawrence Jewett, hospital chief of staff; David Goldsmith, Interior Health board director; and Brian Clifford, chair of the East Kootenay Foundation for Health. - Sally MacDonald photo
Officials celebrate the start of construction at East Kootenay Regional Hospital of a new Intensive Care Unit, Friday, May 16. Pictured, left to right: Dean McKerracher, vice chair, Kootenay East Regional Hospital District; John Kettle, chair, Kootenay East Regional Hospital District; Christine Shumka, (hospital services director); Bill Bennett, Kootenay East MLA; Dr. Lawrence Jewett, hospital chief of staff; David Goldsmith, Interior Health board director; and Brian Clifford, chair of the East Kootenay Foundation for Health.
— image credit: Sally MacDonald photo

A crowd of excited people gathered beside East Kootenay Regional Hospital in Cranbrook on Friday, May 16, to official welcome the start of construction on the $20 million Intensive Care Unit (ICU).

Lark Projects of Surrey began work on the project two weeks ago, soon after being awarded the large-scale construction work.

"Today we are doing the sod turning, so to speak, although you can see from the big hole behind me that the sod has already been turned," said Kootenay East MLA Bill Bennett.

The new ICU will add an 8,500 square foot building to East Kootenay Regional Hospital with six patient rooms. It will be located on the northeast corner of the hospital, beside where the mobile MRI unit is parked.

The addition will replace the ageing, cramped four-bed ICU at the hospital. The size and design of the new ICU will provide better flow through the unit for physicians and staff and provide additional privacy. The enhanced care environment for patients will feature integrated family spaces and maximized natural light.

The project includes a significant electrical upgrade to the entire hospital. The electrical infrastructure will be located in the basement of the new addition.

The B.C. government is funding approximately $12 million of the project and the Kootenay East Regional Hospital District is contributing $8 million. The East Kootenay Foundation for Health is contributing $120,000.

"These upgrades will allow patients to receive an even better level of care in their home community, as well as improving the work environment of the physicians and the staff who provide care here at the hospital," said Bennett.

"I'm not going to call it the crowning glory or the last big piece that was needed, because if I say that, it means we're done and we're never going to be done."

The Kootenay East Regional Hospital District has funded 40 per cent of the capital project and is doing so without having raised taxes on East Kootenay residents in the past seven years, pointed out board chair John Kettle, who thanked MLA Bennett for securing the remaining 60 per cent funding from the province.

"I have to tell you, I've said this a hundred times before, we would not be standing here today, there would not be a hole there today if it wasn't for Kootenay Bill Bennett. That's it, that's a fact."

The East Kootenay Foundation for Health is pitching in funding thanks to the support the non-profit receives from the communities it serves, said Brian Clifford, chair of the foundation.

"It's an indication of the volume of donations that we get in the East Kootenay to allow our regional hospital to continue to provide the service that it does."

Hospital chief of staff Dr. Lawrence Jewett spoke of the journey the hospital has undertaken since he began working there in 1980. He said that the hospital has become a training ground for excellent physicians, but retaining those physicians has been a problem.

"Recruitment and retention of doctors will no longer be a problem," said Jewett. "This addition will finally make us a regional referral centre. The ICU will be the glue that cements all the specialties together. We will no longer need to send out as many patients with heart attacks or strokes."

With substantial work already underway at the Cranbrook site, the ICU project is expected to be complete in mid-2016.

"All I can say now is: gentlemen, start your engines," said Christine Shumka, hospital services director.

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