PUBLIC CAMPAIGN UNDERWAY TO PRESSURE GOVERNMENT TO PLEDGE $160 MILLION TO UPGRADE PENTICTON REGIONAL HOSPITAL
Posted on 15 August 2012 by Keith Lacey
Being polite and patient hasn’t worked, so it’s time to turn up the political pressure and get municipal leaders and citizens in Osoyoos and across the South Okanagan to speak out to the Liberal government and the provincial treasury board to provide $160 million to complete a massive expansion at the Penticton Regional Hospital (PRH), says Osoyoos Mayor Stu Wells and Janice Perrino, the Mayor of Summerland and chair of the Regional Hospital District.
“The soft, quiet, common sense approach that we have tried obviously hasn’t worked, so it’s time to turn on some heat,” said Wells, who noted many patients from Osoyoos are taken to the PRH each and every day. “This hospital is so over-capacity it’s crazy. I’m sure that on some shifts the ambulance crews are carrying people from Osoyoos and they’re told to keep on going right through to Kelowna because there aren’t any rooms left.”
The Okanagan Similkameen Regional Hospital District has started a public awareness and education program to try and apply some pressure on the Ministry of Health, Treasury Board and the provincial government to provide funding so a much-needed $360 million expansion of PRH can take place, said Perrino.
The Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen (RDOS) has already committed $140 million to the project and the foundation itself has committed to raising an additional $20 million, which means the project can proceed once the province commits to funding the final $160 million, said Perrino.
The fact Interior Health last year said expansion for the PRH was its number one priority for this region of the province, yet provided funding to expand smaller projects at the regional hospitals in Kamloops and Vernon earlier this year is very frustrating, said Perrino.
“We felt we had no other choice but to go public and try and exert some pressure on this government to give us the money we need to get this expansion of our hospital done,” she said. “Interior Health has acknowledged the expansion at PRH is its top priority, yet we haven’t received a single penny yet and hospitals in Kamloops and Vernon have. We don’t think that’s right or fair.”
The biggest reason funding was provided in Kamloops and Vernon was because the municipal councils and individual citizens started an intense lobby effort, which obviously paid off, so now it’s time to do the same thing in municipalities across the South Okanagan, she said.
“We’re asking all municipal councils to send letters and show support and we’re asking individuals to get involved and contact their MLA and write letters as well,” she said.
The hospital district has made a formal application to the Province of British Columbia, through Interior Health, expressing great concern about the deteriorating state of the undersized PRH, she said.
“The last small expansion at our hospital was back in 1989 and since then there hasn’t been any significant renovations or improvements and that’s no longer acceptable,” she said. “This hospital consistently operates at 110 per cent capacity and serves a population base of approximately 90,000 citizens.
“When it was first built in 1951, it was built to serve a population base of fewer than 11,000 people. It’s simply too small and we need a major expansion. We’re so grossly undersized, it’s appalling.”
There have been many incredible technological changes in healthcare over the past 60 years, along with the inclusion of the entire region’s population and natural aging of the residents, she said.
“The majority of people who use this hospital are seniors … and we’re going to have a huge influx of Baby Boomers in the next few years and we don’t have the space to handle the people we’re getting now,” she said. “Something drastic has to be done.”
Currently, a number of the core PRH programs, including ambulatory medical day care and clinics, inpatient services, endoscopic and minor surgical procedures, central supply and outpatient diagnostics do not have the physical space to safely handle the patient volumes that arrive from the entire hospital district of the South Okanagan and Similkameen region, she said.
Due to the lack of physical space in the ambulatory care area, numerous clinics have had to be wedged into inpatient units scattered throughout the facility, making access, flow and finding services very difficult, she said.
Patient confidentiality and privacy are extremely important but have become a challenge for the various clinics spread throughout the inpatient units, particularly where waiting areas are a series of chairs in hallways, she said.
The access and flow of ambulatory patients at PRH is severely compromised by the split of medical and procedural functions and the clinics scattered throughout the hospital, which negatively impacts any efficiency that could be made in patient processing, supply utilization and storage, she said.
“In a profession where staffing resources are so important, the flow and configuration of the PRH is the poster child of what not to do,” she said.
The PRH requires an expansion that includes ambulatory services such as medical day care, inpatient surgery, day surgery, endoscopies and minor surgical procedures, she said. It also requires space for general clinics and the UBC Medical School student space, she said.
“Clearly this is a project whose time has come,” she said. “All of the political leaders in this region have formally asked the Minister of Health, Michael de Jong, for support when Interior Health submits this project for attention in the upcoming provincial budget discussion.
“This is about healthcare, not politics, but to achieve political attention, we are asking for support from community leaders and the public at large. It worked in Kamloops and it worked in Vernon and we’re confident it will work here.”
The urgency for this project can’t be overstated as the current site is old, over capacity and falling apart, she said.
With the continued rapid growth in the population base across the South Okanagan and Similkameen regions, patient needs are growing and considering it will take at least five years to construct a new hospital, we must begin sooner than later, she said.
Form letters will be sent out to anyone who asks and those letters are then to be forwarded to Premier Christy Clark, Michael de Jong, Bill Barisoff, the MLA for Penticton, John Slater, MLA for Boundary-Similkameen and Norm Embree, chair, Interior Health Authority.
Slater said it’s clear the expansion of PRH is needed and putting public pressure on the government is a good idea with a provincial election looming.
“We need the municipal leaders and the people to speak out … that’s what happened in Kamloops and Vernon and they got their money, even though those upgrades weren’t on the same level as the money needed here,” he said. “I think it’s our time and it’s time the treasury board opened up its wallet and gave something to this area of the province because it’s sorely needed.”
Community presentations are also being organized and can be arranged by calling 250-492-9027 or by emailing Perrino at email@example.com