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Province gives Penticton Regional Hospital expansion the green light
Residents of Osoyoos – and all residents across the South Okanagan – will reap the health care benefits once the Penticton Regional Hospital (PRH) is transformed from an outdated and overcrowded facility into one of the most modern hospitals in the province, says Osoyoos Mayor Stu Wells.
Wells joined numerous other municipal leaders in rejoicing at last week’s announcement by British Columbia Premier Christy Clark that the $325-million expansion of the PRH has been approved.
Clark surprised many, including Janice Perrino, the chair of the South Okanagan Medical Foundation, by confirming the province is committed to funding $160-million to the project.
Clark received a standing ovation from those in attendance at the Penticton & Wine Country Chamber of Commerce luncheon last Wednesday.
The project will be built in two phases with a new seven-storey patient care tower to include 84 medical and surgical beds in single-patient rooms, a walk-in medical care centre, surgical services, new medical device reprocessing unit and space for a new Faculty of Medicine program by the University of British Columbia.
Phase 2 will involve renovation of the vacated areas of the current hospital to allow for a massive expansion of the emergency department, which will quadruple the current size. There will also be renovations to the existing pharmacy, storage areas and laundry.
“This is absolutely wonderful,” said Wells, who has pushed for PRH expansion for several years not only as Osoyoos’ Mayor, but also as a longtime board member with the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen (RDOS).
“It’s has been a very long time coming and is very much needed because the current hospital is old and overcrowded. The committee that has led the charge to get this expansion built has worked very, very hard for several years and I’m just thrilled this project is moving ahead.”
When completed, PRH will truly be a world-class regional hospital that will be able to offer quality healthcare and world-class programs and services to residents from across the South Okanagan, said Wells.
“This is good news not only for Penticton, but for everybody who lives in this region,” he said. “When finished, this hospital will be able to offer medical procedures and surgeries much closer to home for people across the South Okanagan.”
When Wells heard about Clark’s announcement, he said only one word.
“I yelled out yahoo,” he said smiling. “This is such a big and important project.”
Hundreds of new jobs will be created not only during the construction phase, but also once hospital expansion is completed, he said.
The push to expand PRH has taken over 10 years, but he knew the province would eventually support it and provide necessary funding, said Wells.
“It was a matter of time before the province took action,” he said. “They had to do something because the current hospital was pretty much falling apart. It was only a matter of time before this project came out on top and that day has finally arrived.”
The regional hospital district has been putting aside money for this project for more than a decade and will fund $122 million of the total cost, with another $20 million to be raised by the South Okanagan Medical Foundation.
Close to $33 million in taxpayer dollars from the residents of Penticton has also been set aside for the project.
The hospital district board will also have to make a decision on how much of the remaining local share will be borrowed and how much more should be raised through taxes.
Perrino, who is also the Mayor of Summerland, said Clark’s announcement was overwhelming.
“I didn’t expect this,” she said. “When we heard the Premier was in town and was speaking at the chamber luncheon, a few board members grabbed some tickets and anxious to hear what she had to say.
“When she announced the province was providing all of the funding we needed and the project was going to be even bigger than we ever imagined, I was just floored.
“It was like Christmas in July. I still can’t actually believe it.”
Municipal leaders across the South Okanagan deserve credit for banding together to pressure the provincial government about how important PRH expansion was not only to the residents of Penticton, but the entire region, said Perrino.
When Clark visited the PRH for a personal tour early in 2013 and announced $2 million to support a business plan to look at expansion, Perrino was confident the provincial government was committed to assisting this project.
She just didn’t expect them to provide the entire funding and approve everything the foundation was looking for and more.
“They’ve approved everything that we asked for and have actually included some of the things we never thought we would get,” she said. “When the Premier was here last year, she saw how old and crowded this place was and how much we needed this expansion and she promised to do something about it and now she has.
“She has been phenomenal.”
Now that the province has committed to the $160 in funding for expansion, the next step is to begin the Request for Proposals stage for Phase One, which should take 18 months to two years, said Perrino.
She is hopeful actual construction can begin in the spring of 2017 and estimates the entire project will be completed in five to five-and-a-half years.
The new and improved PRH will be able to provide quality healthcare services to tens of thousands of residents across the South Okanagan for generations to come, said Perrino.
“And with the opening of a new medical school, we will be able to train doctors and nurses right here in are own backyard for years to come,” she said.