New accommodations are in the works to host visitors and families to the North Island Hospital in Campbell River.
The Strathcona Regional District recently approved a bylaw establishing a service to build and fund the facility. The Home Away From Home model allows patients and their families to have a place to stay while they are in the hospital, taking away the stress of finding and paying for transportation and accommodation.
The project first came to the board’s attention when the Children’s Health Foundation, who are building the Qwalayu House for expectant mothers in Campbell River, approached them looking for a group to take on a project to build and run a facility to house families of people using the hospital for non-maternity reasons.
“The regional district thought that was an interesting project and has tentatively partnered with the Campbell River hospital foundation to work towards fundraising the capital costs of the facility and also work towards having operational donations to have the facility’s long term operational costs covered through donations from the community,” said SRD chief administrative officer David Leitch.
“You’re coming from up north or one of the islands and you have medical issues, the last thing you want to do is worry about accommodations and transportation,” he added. “We’re trying to simplify that all together.”
This bylaw was given three readings at the March 11 SRD board meeting. Originally, SRD staff were planning to reach out to partners including the Campbell River Hospital Foundation and other regional districts and governments to hammer down details and secure more funding, but the process was slowed due to the COVID-19 virus, which was declared a global pandemic on the same day.
“This COVID-19 thing happened at a peculiar time. We were on the cusp of the hospital foundation working towards a committed partnership with us to do fundraising for it,” Leitch said. “Everything still looks fairly positive, but it happened right before the pandemic started, so we want to hold tight for a tiny bit here until the dust settles and find out if we’re still on track with the hospital foundation.”
Leitch said that he had reached out to neighbouring jurisdictions including the Regional District of Mount Waddington to discuss becoming funding parters on the project. North Island Hospital is used by communities other than those in the SRD, and Leitch said bringing on other governments will help lessen the impact on SRD taxpayers. The adoption of the bylaw cements the position of the SRD board, and shows negotiations to proceed in earnest with other partners.
One of the conditions that the SRD board agreed to was that any capital costs would be covered by donation, and that the SRD would fund a portion of the operating costs after the facility is built. However, according to a staff report on the issue, “Based on the experience in other areas of the Province it is anticipated that the annual operating costs of maintaining such a facility in the long term will be supported fully by private donations.”
Leitch estimated that capital costs would be between $1.7 to $2 million.
The bylaw allows a maximum requisition of $.023 per $1,000, or roughly $228,000 per year if the funding is required. The staff report said the Regional District of Mount Waddington was considering a similar requisition level. Although the project will have to go through a voter approval or an alternative process.