|This model of the proposed $300-million ambulatory care expansion of Penticton Regional Hospital depicts the new tower and parkade adjacent to the existing hospital building.|
That was the advice Norm Embree, chairman of the Interior Health board, had Thursday for those vying for provincial government approval of the proposed $300-million ambulatory care expansion at Penticton Regional Hospital.
Embree told the Okanagan-Similkameen Regional Hospital District board that the PRH project has the full support of Interior Health in lobbying the province to approve its $160-million share of the bill.
Embree and other Interior Health officials were invited to appear before the regional hospital board in the wake of Health Minister Margaret MacDiarmid's visit to Penticton in December.
Regional district directors expressed growing frustration over their lack of lobbying success to date, even though the Penticton project is ranked as Interior Health's top capital priority.
They noted a recent expansion at Vernon Jubilee Hospital was approved by the government, even though it was ranked fifth by Interior Health.
Embree rejected an allegation by hospital district chairwoman Janice Perrino that Interior Health has been "deathly quiet" in its support of the PRH expansion.
Embree agreed that the PRH expansion is extremely worthwhile, but noted the Vernon project gained provincial approval after a major community lobbying effort.
He suggested the South Okanagan follow suit and keep advocating for the project.
"The community has to get very noisy and very busy to get what they want," he said.
That brought an immediate response from Garry Litke, vice-chairman of the regional hospital district.
"It's very disturbing to hear that No. 5 on the list can be elevated to No. 1 on the list because of the squeaky wheel," Litke said. "It seems to me that's not a principled way of making a decision."
Litke said it appears fairness, needs of the community and amount of local funding already in place have been ignored by the provincial treasury board.
Perrino said it's time to change tactics.
"Nice isn't getting us anywhere anymore," she said. "It's time to be a bit rough with our
Perrino expressed the board's dismay over the lack of response from the health minister, who toured the Penticton hospital last month and appeared to give the project her personal support.
"I'm disappointed with the non-reaction from the province," Perrino said. "We want an answer and we want it now."
Perrino pointed to the upcoming provincial budget and the looming May election.
"We're going to make sure that whoever is there at the table hears loudly and clearly that the residents of the South Okanagan and Similkameen are saying it's time (for approval of the PRH expansion)."
The new ambulatory care tower will include facilities for all of the hospital's day care services, as well as a medical training facility and an adjoining parkade. No extra staffing will be required.
Forty per cent of costs ($120 million) will be picked up by local taxpayers. The regional hospital district expects its reserve fund for the project to grow to $30 million by the end of this year.
A further $20 million for equipment will be raised by the South Okanagan Similkameen Medical Foundation.