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CT scanner fundraising resumes

Latest estimate for facility and equipment is $2.22 million; construction slated for spring

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Whistler’s much-anticipated Computerized Tomography (CT) scanner could see its first patients before Christmas next year.

After two months of negotiations, the regional health authority and the Whistler Health Care Foundation have finalized the cost estimate and devised a construction plan to get the scanner up and running as soon as possible.

The recalculated estimate totals $2.22 million, slightly less than the figure released by Vancouver Coastal Health Authority in September but still significantly higher than the original estimate tabulated by WHCF.

The final estimate was confirmed after separate cost analyses done by the Resort Municipality of Whistler, a professional cost surveyor, and a local construction company.

“I feel confident that this is a realistic figure. Due diligence has really been done, and it went out to three independent groups to look at this. So I don’t think we can do any better than this,” said Marnie Simon, chair of WHCF.

“I am disappointed of course that we have to pay that much more money, but we desperately need this, and we can’t wait till after the Olympics to start building,” she said.

To date, a total of $1.42 million has been raised for the project. Most of the money has been procured by donations from the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation, health care foundations in Squamish and Whistler, and dozens of private donators.

Despite falling at least $800,000 short, the foundation and regional health authority have scheduled construction of an addition to the health care centre to begin by April 15, 2008. The hope is that once construction of the space for the scanner is completed this summer, the money needed to buy the machine will be raised.

“We have enough money raised to actually pay for the building, but we haven’t gotten enough money to pay the additional amount for the equipment,” said Simon, adding that the equipment and warrantees will cost approximately $559,000.

Simon added that if the money is not raised by the time construction is complete, the newly built space will remain empty until the scanner can be purchased.

The CT scanner project involves building the addition onto the Whistler Health Care Centre to house a 16-slide refurbished CT scanner. VCHA will fund the operating costs once the medical equipment is up and running but does not have the money to contribute to capital costs.

The project caused anxiety in the community two months ago after an estimate released by the VCHA came in $900,000 over WHCF estimates. VCHA estimated it would cost $2.37 million, compared to the initial $1.5 million estimate by WHCF. The two parties have been in talks since then to reevaluate the project’s costs.

Following the negotiations, the WHCF has re-launched its fundraising campaign to find the additional money. The organization is looking at the community as well as other means to get cash.

“We certainly hope that our community will dig into their pockets again and be as generous as they have been, and that they feel confident that we really have done the best we can to get the best price,” said Simon.

She added the WHCF and regional hospital district are exploring other innovative ways of raising funds.

Money raised during the WHCF’s first Indulge black-tie gala last weekend will also help the foundation to purchase urgently needed health care equipment. Nearly $75,000 was raised at the Indulge evening, which saw 230 attendees.

“That was incredible. I am just overwhelmed at the generosity of our community. I didn’t think we would raise that much money, I really didn’t. So that was very exciting,” said Simon.

Simon added that the WHCF hopes to make the gala an annual event to raise funds for local health care initiatives.

“I think $75,000 for Indulge is a very, very positive result. And actually that shows me that the community does have an appetite for supporting health care, and that they haven’t lost confidence in the foundation’s ability to do their best for that,” she said.

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