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Okanagan hospital district scales back funding for capital projects

The board voted to limit how much it will tax residents to pay for expensive projects
Princeton hospital

The Okanagan Similkameen Regional Hospital District voted to scale back the amount of funding it will provide for Interior Health’s requests in 2024.

The OSRHD, which covers the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen and includes the municipalities that are located inside that area, had been asked to pony up $6 million in capital project funding for this year.

That funding request and amount was based on the hospital district providing the historical 40 per cent of a project’s costs in funding, with the rest made up by Interior Health or in some cases by external fundraising such as the South Okanagan Similkameen Medical Foundation.

“With the cost of projects and our tax base, we can’t continue to fund 40 per cent,” said OSRHD chair Martin Johansen. “The needs are there, we’re not arguing that there is no need, we’d like to fund everything we can. The reality is we just don’t have enough money to do it.”

Instead, the board of directors voted to cut down their funding to just 30 per cent, and leave it up to Interior Health to either find the remaining funding or reprioritize which projects will move forward.

Some of projects that Interior Health was seeking funding for include back up generators; one for the South Similkameen Health Centre in Keremeos, one for the Summerland Health Centre and a second additional generator for Princeton’s General Hospital.

READ MORE: Hospital district asked to pitch in over $3M for Similkameen generators

As a result of the board’s decision, the expected increase to the tax requisition for residents in the OSRHD will be 5.16 per cent, or an expected cost for the average household of $107.98.

That will scale back about $4.6 million from the total requisition, while still allowing for some funds to be transferred to reserves.

If the board had gone with the 5.16 per cent increase and not lowered the requisition, it would have drained their reserves significantly, with an expected balance of just $268,761 by the end of 2028.

One of the other options would have seen a 46.18 per cent hike to the tax rate, for a cost to the average household of $191.13.

Now, with the decision to go with the scaled-back amount of funding, it will be on Interior Health to decide what to do next, including going to higher levels of government for more funding.

“It signals that the board is going to limit future funding to stay within its funding capacity, I think that’s an important message that we need to send,” said Johansen. “And I think an important piece of the puzzle is we need to circle back with the Ministry of Health because I just don’t believe that 40 per cent contribution for regional hospital districts is sustainable anymore.”

Brennan Phillips

About the Author: Brennan Phillips

Brennan was raised in the Okanagan and is thankful every day that he gets to live and work in one of the most beautiful places in Canada.
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