Anyone who has been to Lady Minto Hospital’s emergency department in the past 10 years will know that improvements to that much-valued service are desperately needed.
With space for only a few beds and not much breathing room besides, it’s woefully inadequate for a community of almost 11,000 people and the many visitors Salt Spring Island receives. Both due to its size and its location near the waiting room and other hospital services, privacy is almost non-existent.
In addition to handling medical emergencies around the clock, the department also acts as a walk-in clinic to those in our community who do not have family physicians.
Seven years ago a plan was presented to renovate the existing area to improve the way it operates. That proposal did not move forward. Since then the Lady Minto Hospital Foundation has taken the lead in spearheading a plan to build an addition to the hospital to house the emergency department. Preparing for eventual new medical imaging space is also proposed. The foundation, which is in a healthy financial position, has also accepted responsibility for funding 70 per cent of the $10-million project.
While Island Health has guaranteed funds to operate the department once it’s open, it would normally be expected to commit a significant portion of the capital cost as well. However, Salt Spring’s emergency department is not high enough on its list of priorities to warrant a capital contribution.
The Capital Regional Health District, which is part of the CRD, has been asked to provide $3 million. Its board will vote on the proposal today (Oct. 14). Last year the owners of average-assessed Salt Spring residential properties contributed $135 to CRHD coffers. While island residents clearly benefit when they use services at Royal Jubilee or Victoria General hospitals, it has been many years since CRHD funds have directly benefitted a Salt Spring capital healthcare project.
A new emergency room will absolutely serve our community, whose members know best how much it is needed and who will no doubt step up to donate the required funds.
We hope the CRHD Board will agree that it’s a project worth investing in for Salt Spring Island, as part of the region it receives property taxes from.