Original Published on Oct 25, 2022 at 08:34

Health centre funding falls on province, Carberry Manitoba mayor continues to insist

By Miranda Leybourne, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Prairie Mountain Health is “committed” to making sure the Carberry Health Centre’s new tub and shower room are installed to better service area residents, a spokesperson said this week after the mayor of Carberry accused the province of failing to prioritize health care.

However, confusion remains around who will actually fund the project.

As the Sun previously reported, Carberry Mayor Stuart Olmstead expressed his frustration at how long the town has been waiting for the room to be installed and the lack of clear communication from Prairie Mountain Health (PMH) and the province.

The project is expected to cost around $100,000. Meanwhile, the province recently added $5.5 million to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ bid to host a future Grey Cup. Carberry officials said in a Tuesday press release this news was “not received well” by town council.

“Over the past few months, there have been several meetings held between the local health action committee, council and PMH. According to PMH, the funding for the project needs to come from local funds, which are fundraised through the efforts of the local committee and donations from local residents,” the release said.

Pointing out that health care is a provincial responsibility, Olmstead told the Sun that asking Carberry residents to donate enough money to cover the project’s price tag felt like a “shakedown.”

The Sun contacted PMH and the province for comment, addressing requests to Agassiz MLA Eileen Clarke and Health Minister Audrey Gordon.

Initially, Clarke’s press secretary Brant Batters said that health care didn’t fall under her portfolio as minister of municipal relations. When the Sun subsequently requested an interview with Clarke in her role as the area MLA, Batters said she would refrain from commenting due to upcoming municipal elections, to be held Oct. 26, claiming a “blackout” was in place until after the elections concluded.

“Municipal elections are underway, and the MLA for Agassiz would not want to comment on a local matter during the current blackout period,” Batters wrote. “As the minister of municipal relations, the minister is acutely aware all municipalities are to adhere to the blackout protocol, and doesn’t want to create any issues by commenting.”

In an email to the Sun, Lara Bossert, a spokesperson for PMH, said the authority was committed to completing the tub and shower room at the Carberry Health Centre as “expeditiously” as possible, subject to the “availability of trades and supplies.”

“With the $90,000 commitment from the Carberry-North Cypress Health Action Committee, PMH also commits to fund the additional costs required for this project, currently anticipated to be $30,000 for a total project cost of approximately $120,000,” Bossert wrote.

On Friday afternoon, Olmstead said town council will hold a meeting with Prairie Mountain CEO Brian Schoonbaert next week to discuss the issue.

However, Olmstead remained adamant on Friday that the installation of the tub and shower room should be paid for by the province.

“This is very much a provincial responsibility that has to be taken care of by the province.”

Town council met with Prairie Mountain earlier this summer.

“That’s when they committed that [the installation] was going to be happening and we had no worries about it … and then basically the funding model very much became, ‘Oh, it’s going to be happening with your money.’”

Town council also received a letter from the province this summer that said the project was approved but relayed no details as to how it would be funded, Olmstead said.

“Now they say that yes, the project is a go, but it’s also with your own money. So, it does feel very much like a double dip in regards to taxation on a responsibility that lies with the province.”

But with the financial onus apparently on the town, Carberry North Cypress Health Action Committee is requesting support from council. The committee laid out its requests in a letter to council on Aug. 29.

“[The] hospital was built with 10 inpatient rooms … 20-plus years ago without access to proper bathing facilities. We seek to finally rectify this,” the letter, which Olmstead shared with the Sun, reads.

The letter added that the committee met with Brian Will, director of capital, infrastructure and support services with PMH, and was told the total project cost would actually be $125,000.

“[Will] emphasised that our project would go to the top of their list if we were to commit to 100 per cent of the costs, otherwise it may take much longer.”

The committee then asked Will what PMH would be “prepared to offer” toward the project financially.

“He countered that any government funding currently available is going to infrastructure projects such as roofing and building repair and it is his job to prioritize. Our project would be down on the list.”

As noted in the letter, the committee went on to commit to partially funding the installation of the tub and shower room to the tune of $60,000.

“Then we will continue our fundraising efforts for the $35,000,” the letter reads.

While Olmstead acknowledged there may be a “blackout period” in place, that doesn’t mean council’s work stops.

“The work of municipal government goes on whether there’s an election or not,” Olmstead said. “We hope this gets resolved with the proper department paying for the infrastructure of their own facility.”

This item reprinted with permission from   Brandon Sun   Brandon, Manitoba

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