Premier commits to hospital upgrade

Premier Christy Clark said the province has “notionally” found the money needed for a proposed tower for the Penticton Regional Hospital.

Premier Christy Clark said the province has “notionally” found the money needed to build a proposed $300-million hospital tower for the Penticton Regional Hospital.

On March 20, Clark was in Penticton to make the announcement. She said the Treasury Board has approved the money to develop a business case for the ambulatory care tower.

The study is expected to take a year to complete and will include cost estimates for the project.

“We know the money is there. We know there is room in the budget,” she said.

At present, the hospital district has set aside $1.2 million to complete the business case.

While Janice Perrino, chair of the Okanagan Similkameen Regional Hospital District is pleased with the announcement, she said there is still uncertainty about the project.

A provincial election is expected in May and if the provincial Liberals are not re-elected, it is not known whether the next government would continue the commitment to the expansion.

New Democratic Party leader Adrian Dix was in Penticton on Saturday and hospital officials asked him to commit to the expansion as well.

Mike Farnworth, health critic for the New Democrats, has said that if his party is elected, they will continue commitments which have been made with money attached.

Perrino said the expansion should be based on the need in the region, not on the outcome of the provincial election.

“The process should be straightforward,” she said. “We have a very, very old hospital that is so out of date.”

The Penticton Regional Hospital was built in 1951 to serve a population of 10,000.

At the time, other communities, including Summerland, also had their own hospitals.

Over the years, the region’s population has grown considerably. Changes to health care have also resulted in the loss of hospitals in Summerland and other communities.

As a result, the Penticton Regional Hospital now serves a population of around 90,000.

“I don’t understand why any government doesn’t do what the regions need first,” Perrino said.