The regional district is looking at possibility of establishing a lodge near the hospital for adult patients waiting medical procedures in Campbell River, alongside a similar one proposed for children and their families. File photo, Campbell River Mirror

Strathcona Regional District divided on adult lodge plan near hospital

Some members see SRD as project champion while others see job as province’s role

A few weeks ago, the Strathcona Regional District was receptive to a plan for a home near the hospital for the region’s families to stay at while children await medical treatment.

Part of the concept behind the so-called Home Away From Home, modelled on Victoria’s Jeneece Place, was to also have a similar place for adults awaiting treatment while in town.

The idea has been developed in recent years by a working group representing Island Health, the Children’s Health Foundation, First Nations Health Authority, KDC Health, the local hospital as well as the City of Campbell River and the SRD. The Children’s Health Foundation of Vancouver Island would lead the children’s lodge project but noted the adult lodge is outside their mandate.

RELATED STORY: Home Away from Home to support families during kids’ medical treatment

The SRD, itself, is considering the idea of championing the project, but based on the May 8, board members are mixed on the idea – not the lodge itself but the responsibility for it. The plan, as presented by staff, would see the regional district help fund the building as well as contribute to operations.

Several members, particularly those representing communities farther from Campbell River and its new hospital, were supportive of the proposal.

Area D Director Gerald Whalley, who has questioned establishing regional-based services before, surprised his colleagues.

“This one I support. It’s a good idea,” he said, though he added he would like to see more beds established at a facility. “We need more than five beds. Ten would be a good start.”

Other board members like Area D Director Brenda Leigh felt constituents were already close to the facility and not need it, yet would still be asked to pay.

The staff report shows the requisition breakdown, based on assessment value, from property owners throughout the SRD for operational funding. Using a figure of $0.01 per $1,000 of property, Area D and the City of Campbell River have the highest average assessment values, at more than $400,000 each, with Area B and Area C over $300,000. Area A is just over $200,000, while the four municipalities to the west have average assessments under $200,000. In actual dollar amounts, the impact per house would be $4.49 in Area D and $4.03 in Campbell River. The areas with the lowest would be Zeballos at $0.61 and Tahsis at $0.83. Region-wide, the average would be $3.72 per house. However, Campbell River would contribute the most actual dollars, providing $61,534 of the $87,308 based on the annual assessments. Capital costs are estimated at $1.3 million.

Ultimately, Leigh felt this project was something that should be the responsibility of the health authority.

“I see this as a bit of downloading from the province,” she said.

Andy Adams, Campbell River’s mayor and one of its board members, said he understands the need for the facility, especially in light of high hotel occupancy rates that could otherwise provide accommodations.

“There is a requirement for some form of lodge accommodation,” he said.

However, Adams did not support the SRD taking on the project, though he felt the regional district can help facilitate the project.

“I do not see this as our role to do a capital campaign, and I really don’t see this as our role to get involved in the operating costs,” he said.

Island Health, itself, will be one of the largest beneficiaries, Adams said, because the facility could assist in early discharges of patients by providing space for waiting patients not needing acute care beds.

His city council colleague on the board, Ron Kerr, said he supports the project completely.

“This project needs a champion. That champion is not going to step up from anywhere,” he said, comparing it to the Connected Coast high-speed Internet initiative for the SRD. “If we don’t step up, it’s not going to happen.”

RELATED STORY: Strathcona Regional District receives incorporation for broadband plan

If the board chooses to go ahead, the next steps would be for SRD staff to draft a service establishment bylaw, undertake the approval process and start preliminary design and fund-raising.

“It is very much a work in progress,” said Victoria Smith, SRD senior manager of strategic initiatives.

The board did approve a motion to get a further report and draft service establishment bylaw prepared for the purpose of considering the adult lodge portion of the Home Away from Home project. Director Adams, Leigh, Jim Abram, Brad Unger and Colleen Evans, acting as alternate for Charlie Cornfield, opposed the motion.

A subsequent motion made by Evans and seconded by Adams for the board to get a capital and operating feasibility study prior to it requisitioning money for the bylaw was also passed, with Directors Kerr, Noba Anderson, Julie Colborne and Martin Davis.

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