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Hundreds rally with doctors to support hospital expansion

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Cyril Squires, centre left, holds a placard at Wednesday night's public rally in support of the proposed $300-million expansion of Penticton Regional Hospital. The event, hosted by the Penticton Medical Society, attracted more than 800 people to the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre.

 

By SCOTT TRUDEAU

Penticton Herald

With a building literally bursting from its walls and staff sharing desks in makeshift offices set up in closets, Penticton Regional Hospital is long overdue for a makeover.

That was the resounding affirmation from the more than 800 citizens in attendance at the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre for Wednesday's public information session organized by the Penticton Medical Society.

Several doctors were among those on the panel and they were urging everyone in attendance to support a proposed $300-million expansion for a new ambulatory care tower at the hospital.

Doctors are upset about the circumstances surrounding the hospital which was built in 1951 and is badly in need of improvements.

Dr. Brad Raison, chief of staff at the hospital, said the most recent renovation happened in 1989 when the ambulatory care and intensive care unit were completed. Even that project, however, was scaled back to budgetary constraints.

He said a new facility would allow patients in need of things like blood and stress tests and blood transfusions to have them performed in one central area. The current facility is equipped with old ventilation systems that provide little infection control capacity and the layout of the 60-year-old hospital forces patients - some of them with oxygen tanks and IV stands - to walk long distances for tests and scans.

Raison said nurses run short on many items and make the most with what they have but that has to change. Staff is forced to work in cramped rooms and is treating patients in surgery rooms that were designed to house only a bed and a lamp and some examination rooms are so small that patients are moved around in a manner that at times causes them to block doorways while they're being examined.

Dr. Sarah Broder, a respirologist at the hospital said patients are sometimes, "scattered like seeds in the wind" and added, "to them, this is like a bloody Ironman event."

Broder noted the per-capita amount Penticton hospital has received in the past 10 years amounts to $22 per person per year. In Vernon, it is $92 per person per year, and in Kelowna, it is $108 per person a year.

Anaesthesiologist Dr. Andy Hamilton, who is also the logistics and medical director for surgery for Interior Health, stated operating rooms at the hospital are "past their time" and that "we need a physical facility designed around the patient."

The new tower would also be equipped with a heli-pad which would allow patients in need of heart procedures to be transferred to Kelowna General Hospital.

The Penticton Medical Society is asking for help in lobbying the province to have the PRH project included in the provincial budget on Feb. 19.

Dr. Dr. David Paisley said the clock is ticking and reminded the crowd it's crucial to speak to those in power to make a plea of the need for the tower.

The province is being asked to contribute $160 million toward the project while the hospital district has $25 million raised so far towards its 40 per cent contribution towards the expansion.

Anyone wanting to help out can visit www.prhtower.ca and click on the link, "How do I get involved."

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