Abbotsford Regional Hospital File photo

Fraser Health asking taxpayers for millions more in health care capital funding

Health authority wants Fraser Valley taxpayers to triple annual contribution to $5.75 million

Fraser Health wants local taxpayers to triple the amount they pay towards hospital capital and infrastructure projects over the next four years and kick in more than $20 million over that time span.

But Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun, who chairs the board of the Fraser Valley Regional Hospital District (FVRHD), says increasing health care funding isn’t a burden that should fall on the shoulders of local government.

The health authority came to the hospital board in October to request an increase in annual funding from the current $1.8 million to $5.75 million, and discussions between the two organizations continue.

This year, an Abbotsford house worth $588,000 would pay $99 towards local hospitals. The Fraser Health proposal would push that sum over $300.

Hospital districts like the FVRHD are asked to fund a portion of infrastructure projects – often around 40 per cent – in local facilities. Money is raised through property taxes. The local share of funding is just a tiny part of Fraser Health’s $3.3 billion annual budget.

Braun said the board has been reviewing Fraser Health’s request and is likely to kick in more money. But he suggested Fraser Health won’t likely get the full amount requested, and said some of the projects could be classified as repair and maintenance, which is not to be funded through hospital boards. Braun also said the 40 per cent share is “not cast in stone.”

In a PowerPoint presentation shown to hospital district members in the fall, Fraser Health CEO Michael Marchbank outlined more than $67 million in infrastructure spending between 2017 and 2022 with which the health authority wants help. Fraser Health hopes the hospital district would kick in around $26 million towards that cost.

Most of that infrastructure spending would be on what the Fraser Health deems to be “equipment over $100,000,” defined as “priorities that cannot be further delayed.”

The biggest projects for this year include a $1.4 million “multipurpose angio/interventional suite” at Abbotsford Regional Hospital (ARH), and $1.2 million in “patient monitoring” equipment at Chilliwack General Hospital (CGH).

The health authority is also undertaking a $6.7 million upgrade to Fraser Canyon Hospital’s electrical system and a $2.7 million expansion of Mission’s community health centre.

Beyond this spring, Fraser Health’s budget foresees a need for $25 million of equipment upgrades at ARH and $13 million of new equipment at CGH.

Fraser Health spokesperson Tasleem Juma said that with ARH coming up on 10 years of operation, more equipment at the hospital is in need of replacement. If the hospital board refuses to fund the full amount requested, that doesn’t mean the equipment won’t be purchased. Instead, Juma said the health authority will “look for other ways to buy the equipment.”

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