New title for Taft

The Kootenay East Regional Hospital District Board has elected its chair and vice chair for the coming year.

The Kootenay East Regional Hospital District Board has elected its chair and vice chair for the coming year.

Elkford Mayor Dean McKerracher was re-elected as the chair for his second term, and District of Invermere mayor Gerry Taft was elected as acting chair for the first time.

“I am grateful to be able to coninue on as chair and thank my fellow directors for their confidence in me,” said Mr. McKerracher in a recent press release. “2016 will be an exciting year, starting with the opening of the new intensive care unit (ICU) at the Kootenay East Regional Hospital, which this board has been a supporter of from day one. I’m looking forward to its official opening and to continuing to build on the strong relationships we have as a board and with Interior Health.”

“As the acting chair, I’m basically his back-up,” Taft told The Echo, noting he would attend meetings as the chair if McKerracher would not be available to attend. “I think there might be an opportunity once a year to have the chair and the acting chair meet with IHA and the other health boards to keep the lines of communication open.”

The Kootenay East Regional Hospital District provides up to 40 per cent of capital funding for acute care facilities in the region, for equipment and facility construction and renovation.

“The important point to make is that the Kootenay East Regional Hospital District isn’t officially involved in operations, so we don’t tell IHA how to run things or the way they do business,” explained Taft. “We’re only involved in the funding on capital projects. With that being said, we still have opinions even though we’re not really decision makers, we have — in the past — been effective in bringing a local voice to some of the IHA decisions, whether that’s something around laundry service or the heli-paid in Invermere or dialysis unit. These are issues that have come through this board. Even though the board only funds capital projects, we still have the ear of IHA.”

He believes the most important priorities for the board, in his mind, are to ensure the best health care authorities and facilities are available in the East Kootenay region.

“We want to see there’s enough positions in the small towns, that the hospitals stay open and are properly staffed,” he added.

The Kootenay East Regional Hospital District Board meets four times annually after the Regional District of East Kootenay meetings held in Cranbrook, which allows Taft to be a presence in many roles.

Taft is currently serving as one of the Columbia Valley RDEK directors and a UBCM director at large while being a father, a business owner and the mayor of Invermere.