With a new Nanaimo hospital patient tower projected to cost approximately $1 billion and staff requesting advocacy for increased services, the Regional District of Nanaimo may ask neighbouring districts to cover some of the costs.
It was a topic of discussion for the Nanaimo Regional Hospital District select committee June 3, as members passed a motion asking staff to look into partnering with other regional districts and working together to fund specialized services at NRGH.
In March, NRGH staff asked the RDN to ask the B.C. government to commit to a plan that included the patient tower, as well as cardiac service and a comprehensive cancer service centre, which the board agreed to do.
Under the current funding formula, the RDN would be on the hook for 40 per cent of the cost (currently $420 million) with the B.C. government taking care of the remaining 60 per cent.
Leanne Salter, Coombs-area director, proposed the motion.
“There is a monetary issue at hand, and can we do things differently and still achieve our goal and not just our goal, but we’re talking Vancouver Island,” said Salter. “Because even if the RDN and the electoral areas fund the tertiary hospital in Nanaimo and do the 60/40 and the cancer clinic, all those things we’re talking about … but if we do that, we’re doing the same thing over and over.
“We’re going to carry on down this road until we hit the wall and we will hit a wall because of the costs, so can we start looking at this a little differently?”
Phyllis Carlyle, RDN chief administrative officer, said the district could ask peers but more information will be needed.
“There’s nothing wrong with asking,” said Carlyle. “But I think it would have to have some rationale that we would have to get from [Island Health] about the expectation as to which patients are coming from which regional districts currently for service at Nanaimo and in the future when they build the additions that they’re expecting, what do they expect the patient flow to be from where.
“We don’t have that data, but we can ask (Island Health) if they have those projections and see if those projections actually support those regional districts funding part of the existing structure.”
According to a staff report, a north Island hospital project, which opened in fall 2017, consisted of a 95-bed hospital at Campbell River and 153-bed facility for Comox. It had a combined price tag of $606 million and the Comox regional hospital district provided $150 million from its reserves, accumulated in anticipation of the project.
The remaining $90 million was secured through borrowing (10-year long-term debt), said the report, and tax requisition for its residents is 54¢ per $1,000 assessed in 2020.
Nanaimo Regional Hospital District currently taxes at 16¢ per $1,000 assessed and could increase that rate in order to help pay for its hospital improvements, the report suggested.
Currently, construction on the tower is anticipated to begin in 2026.
The recommendation will need to go before the hospital district board. Its next meeting is scheduled for Dec. 7.