28058869_185074aff7_m The next ten years will say a lot about the provincial and federal support for healthcare facilities in rural areas.

With the average age of the population increasing, something needs to be done to ensure that adequate healthcare for the elderly is available in rural communities. It is not appropriate to suggest that elderly residents should have to move away from their hometown to find a bed in a care facility or hospital that caters to common elderly issues.

The Situation in the States

A recent article from down in the states points out how much investment has been pumped into the health care system in many states. We’re talking billions of dollars in upgrades and new construction. This is a massive turn around from the seventies on, where there had been a decline in many areas in healthcare infrastructure spending.


The Boom goes on

The most significant expansion and replacement of U.S. hospitals since the post-World War II building spree continues to fuel a red-hot construction market. With hundreds of additional projects in the planning stages, it’s a trend that’s expected to last through the rest of the decade.

Read more after the jump…

The Kootenays and Healthy Growth

Looking around towns such as Trail, Castlegar and Rossland, one can’t help but notice an aging population that will need serious attention, while they are still in their homes and as the level of care required demands beds in hospitals and nursing homes.

With George Penfold’s estimate of 13,000 extra workers required in the West Kootenays in the next five years, one has to assume that many of these jobs will be to replace workers lost as retirement comes up, as well as the demand for care workers. If George’s estimates are correct, 13,000 workers can mean well over 25,000 people, (children, non-working parents, relatives making an amenity migration to be with family). These amenity and occupational migrants (of which I am one!) will place an increased demand on the regular health care system, that already has too few doctors, nurses, beds, ambulances, specialists, and home care personnel to cope with any increase in the population.

This is not a situation unique to the West Kootenays, people are much more mobile than even ten years ago. The decision on where to live, or where to retire is a choice, and it will be difficult to try and tell the baby boomers, or any other group of society where they can or can’t live.

A Benefit in Private Facilities?

It’s interesting that in the states, where hospitals are privately funded, pitching their benefits is obvious to hospitals…

Planning Commissioners Journal : Hospitals Pitch Their Economic Impact

I quickly understood that Fletcher Allen was far from alone in highlighting these kinds of economic benefits. In fact, hospital after hospital, in all parts of the country, are touting the considerable impacts they have on the local economy.

A mix of private and public health care facilities is common in Australia, where the Medicare + Private Health Insurance system "works", (depending on who you ask of course!). But if the government is not willing to spend funds on additional capital infrastructure for health care, what other options are there if private health is not an option.


Home Care

One of the great advances in medical practice in the past decade has been the realization that for many conditions people can stay healthier if they can stay at home. As an added benefit, it reduces the demands placed on the medical facilities for bed, parking and other logistical issues.

I’m not a health care expert, but I see value in looking at the full range of options for areas which are likely to undergo the combination of an aging population, and migration for amenity or employment.

Published by Mike Thomas

Mike Thomas P.Eng. ENV SP, is the author of UrbanWorkbench.com and Director of Engineering at the City of Revelstoke in the Interior of British Columbia, Canada.