The Brandon Regional Health Centre will undergo substantial renovations in coming years, and plans include rooms that haven’t been upgraded since the early 1960s.
The work will make way for five additional surgical beds, 12 new medical beds, renovations on half of the second floor, the entire fourth and fifth floor of the room tower, and significant work to the hospital’s pediatric unit.
Brian Schoonbaert, the hospital’s chief operating officer, said the project, expected to cost about $12 million, is a delivery on a campaign promise made by Premier Greg Selinger in 2011.
"We will have many more one-bed and two-bedroom units, so that’s the biggest piece," Schoonbaert said. "We will still have a few three-bed units, but we’re so pleased we can upgrade these areas so there will be less patients per room.
"This is a big thing for us."
Prairie Mountain Health will begin working on detailed designs with construction beginning in as early as a year from now.
Schoonbaert said the renovations will be completed at the end of 2015 at the earliest if things go as planned.
The regional health authority is mandated to canvas communities to collectively contribute 10 per cent of any capital project. For this project, the Brandon Regional Health Centre Foundation has agreed to pay half of the community contribution, which is $600,000.
To fund the remaining half of the mandated community contribution, the hospital has approached the City of Brandon and the RMs of Cornwallis, Whitehead and Elton to pitch in — the four areas that use the BRHC as a primary hospital.
"We’re all in discussions with the four as we speak," Schoonbaert said.
But the hospital contacted every town and municipality in the former Assiniboine Regional Health Authority and the request received a frosty reaction from Killarney-Turtle Mountain Mayor Rick Pauls.
"When we get a letter from Prairie Mountain Health asking for the region — everyone in the region — to contribute to Brandon’s hospital and they’re playing the regional card on this? This is ridiculous," Pauls told the Sun.
Pauls said his area is facing a bed shortage of its own and patients are often shuffled around to neighbouring health centres and even to the BRHC. He wants to see the additional beds go to his area.
"Put the new beds in our (hospital) and we’ll pay the 10 per cent from the community here."
However, Schoonbaert reiterated it’s just a request, one that is about 60 per cent less than what the RHA is asking from the four nearby municipalities. Contributions are not mandatory, even from the City of Brandon, and Killarney has sent a responding letter stating it will not contribute.
"We will respect that," Schoonbaert said, "but we hope others will think differently to help us on this campaign.
"This was how we defined community considering the Brandon Regional Health Centre is a regional referral centre."
Schoonbaert said the hospital has approached the outlying communities in the past, most recently for a major critical services redevelopment around 10 years ago, which saw healthy contributions from rural regions, he said.
"The government has made this a requirement for us, so we do have to go to our communities to try and co-ordinate," Schoonbaert said.
The remaining 90 per cent of the cost of the project, $10.8 million, will come from Manitoba Health.
"We are constantly working to improve and develop our infrastructure," said Brandon-East MLA Drew Caldwell. "The bed tower is part of that."
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