The Thompson-Nicola Hospital Board has approved a 1.5 per cent increase to next year’s hospital tax in order to build up reserves for expansion of Royal Inland Hospital.
It amounts to an increase of $2.64 for the average household (assessed at $338,000) in the Thompson-Nicola Regional District and is collected alongside property taxes.
On Thursday morning, the board reviewed the 2020 provisional budget. Expenditures in 2020 are expected to be higher than this year as a result of $53 million to be paid toward Royal Inland Hospital’s patient-care tower, which is under construction. The $417-million project is being funded by the province ($225 million), hospital district ($172 million) and Royal Inland Hospital Foundation ($20 million).
TNRD CAO Sukh Gill told the board reserves will be drawn upon significantly over the next three years. He said he is also looking a decade down the road, when a third phase of hospital expansion could occur.
“The more we can try to save, the less future borrowing and less taxation increase that will have to happen,” Gill said.
Meanwhile, Interior Health health services administrator Tracey Rannie told KTW the tower is due to be completed by the summer of 2022.
“In the winter and spring of 2020, we’ll start dialogue of the renovation part of it,” Rannie said. “That’s the emergency department, post-anaesthetic, the morgue — that conversation. We’ll start planning for that. Those renovations will be fully completed in 2024.”
A master site plan of Royal Inland Hospital envisions a third tower. However, Rannie said, no planning is yet underway.
Kamloops Mayor Ken Christian told the board he is pushing for planning for the third tower to begin during construction of the patient-care tower, noting it is a significant time investment. He and other members also stressed the importance of hospital parking, as RIH cares for patients from throughout the region, not just Kamloops.
The patient-care tower is expected to increase parking by about 100 stalls, including underground parking and a site above St. Ann’s Academy, in a location currently occupied by Children’s Circle Daycare (which will eventually move to a new site a few blocks east, in the Sagebrush neighbourhood).
The idea of a parkade was floated, though challenges include weighing the value of increased health services versus the need to park vehicles.