Promoting healthy living is becoming a priority for Interior Health, which is trying to reduce the demand on health services.

At its most recent meeting on Tuesday, April 28th, Invermere council heard from Interior Health East Kootenay community health facilitator Kerri Wall, who spoke to council about the Healthy Community Initiative.

Ms. Wall described how the Healthy Community Initiative program promotes healthy living options, in a effort to prevent people from needing to use more traditional health services and asked if the district wanted to formally partner with Interior Health in the program, as a few other East Kootenay communities have so far done.

“It’s to promote health and wellness in the community and reduce risk factors for chronic disease,” she said, adding if the district does sign up for a formal partnership, it would get a monthly newsletter as well as consulting experience and expertise for health promotion.

Councillor Justin Atterbury asked if a formal partnership would be of any benefit to help with reduction in health services, such as the loss of Invermere’s dialysis unit two years ago.

Ms. Wall responded this would be outside her role with Health Community Initiatives program.

Invermere mayor Gerry Taft expressed concern about the possibility of a formal partnership eventually leading, years down the road, to downloading of services from Interior Health onto the district.

“We want to be part of the picture of health promotion, but we don’t want to be the one driving the bus. If you’re too enthusiastic sometimes you get more than you want,” said Taft.

Council heard from a second Interior Health representative at the same meeting. Interior Health Golden and Invermere health service director Deborah Austin spoke about the health services available in the community.

Austin, in her presentation, talked about the seasonal fluctuations in visits to the emergency centre at the Invermere & District Hospital.

“They (the fluctuations) are enough that we have to change our staffing levels to deal with the influx,” Austin said.

Councillor Al Miller asked about how much Golden’s surgery program gets used, pointing out that the Golden & District General Hospital has an operating room, while the Invermere hospital does not.

“I would’ve thought that we would have more (visits to the emergency centre) here,” said Miller.

Ms. Austin pointed out that the operating room in Golden only does day surgery and said part of the reason Golden  has a operating room is the long distance the town is from any other hospital (roughly two hours to either Cranbrook, Revelstoke or Banff). She went on to add that the other part of the reason for the operating room in Golden is the severity of the injuries encountered there, many of which stem from serious accidents on the TransCanada Highway, as well as from the Kicking Horse Mountain Resort in Golden, which she characterized as more fearsome than the ski hills here.

“Your numbers in Invermere are higher, because of the (visiting) Calgarians, but they tend to be more minor injuries,” said Austin. “But the skiers coming in (to the emergency centre) in Golden are train wrecks. They’re just cowboys up there. So between that and the highway (accidents) their ED (Emergency Department) visits in Golden are much more critical.”

Austin also said there’s no reason Invermere residents should be going to Cranbrook for telehealth conferences, since the Invermere hospital has all the capabilities it needs.


Tax bylaws

Also at at the April 28th meeting, council members gave three readings each to three different parcel tax bylaw amendments; one for water improvements (setting the 2015 rate at $79.44 per parcel); one for water system upgrades ($38.24 per parcel); and one for sewage treatment works ($38.87 per parcel).

The 2015 tax rates bylaw also received three readings at the meeting.

In discussion on the bylaw, Invermere chief financial officer Karen Cote said the average increase per residence in Invermere is $50, although the actual amount will vary from residence to residence depending on the house.

Councillor Greg Anderson asked how the tax rates in Invermere compare with the rest of the East Kootenay and Cote responded they are the third lowest in the region.

Taft said it can be tricky comparing taxes between municipalities.

“It’s a bit of apples to oranges. You can look really good in one area, but not in another,” he said, adding that Radium Hot Springs, for instance, has lower general tax rates than Invermere, but has higher parcel taxes for water and sewer.

Council members also received the district’s financial statements for the period ending March 31st. When presenting them to council, Cote mentioned she’s concerned about the number of tax sale properties.

“The list is much higher than normal,” she said, adding there are more than 30 such properties in the district. “Times are tough.”

She also pointed out that operating cash in the financial statements is low, but that fluctuations are common from period to period and that it’s not uncommon to be in overdraft this time of year.


Municipal projects

At the April 10th meeting, council members also voted unanimously to adopt the district’s revised Short Term Action Chart. Several council members commented they are happy to be reminded that work continues on some of the smaller municipal projects that Invermere has on the go, despite larger projects such as the multi-use centre grabbing most of the attention.