Penticton hospital on life support

Penticton doctors put out the word this week that the condition of their hospital is critical.

The medical staff joins politicians and others in the community who are raising their voices about the need for a new patient tower at the aging Penticton Regional Hospital.

"The reason we made the media release is to mobilize the population to put pressure on the government to approve the go ahead to get the tower," said Doctor David Paisley, president of the Penticton Medical Staff Society. "We have been waiting our turn to get hospital upgrades, while other cities get funding."

Both Vernon and Kamloops were lower on the Interior Health list to get improvements, but have since received millions in funding, he said.

Doctors will further stress the need for upgrades at a public meeting set for 6:30 p.m., Feb. 13 at the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre.

Five doctors are expected to educate the public about why this is so important.

Among the issues addressed so far are the hospital was designed when penicillin was not widely available for a population of 10,000 people with an expected lifespan of 68 years.

The current building is being used by more than 90,000 people with a life expectancy of 83 years. The facility is now running at 107 percent capacity with the situation rapidly getting worse.

The doctors are urging the public to further get involved by contacting area provincial politicians.

“Our concern is this needs to be dealt with now, because if we don’t in five years time we will be unable to keep up with the quality of care we provide," said Paisley.

The primary upgrade will be a four story ambulatory care tower, featuring a medical school, surgical suites, outpatient clinics and an oncology centre.  A parking structure will go in beside the tower.

The total cost of the project is $300 million. The Okanagan Similkameen Regional Hospital District Board has agreed to fund $120 million and the South Okanagan Similkameen Medical Foundation will fund $20 million. That makes for $160 million needed from the province.

In January, members of the hospital district board demanded answers from Interior Health regarding the future of their hospital.

In response, Norman Embree, Interior Health board chair, told them them they needed to get noisy and advocate for themselves.

"I think there is a feeling that we have done everything right and still have not received the money," said Janice Perrino, executive director of the foundation. "And I expect we will see a lot more activity from the doctors. This is the place where they work and they can’t do their jobs as well as they need to.”

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