It was standing room only at a meeting Wednesday night focused on the need to expand Penticton Regional Hospital.
A crowd of around 750 people, young and old, filled the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre to hear doctors talk about their hospital in crisis.
“We hope by the end of this evening you will be convinced as we are that this is a good idea,”said Dr. David Paisley, president of the Penticton Medical Staff Society. “We need to stand up together and tell the government that this is a good idea. We can’t waste any time, we’ve got to do it now.”
The town hall meeting, organized by the medical society, was led by a panel of seven doctors from the hospital.
They talked about working in a hospital which was built in 1951 to meet the needs of a much smaller population with fewer resources and available medicine at their fingertips.
Many touched on literally working in closets or laundry rooms, the long distances ill patients have to walk to receive different types of care and the humiliation of traveling down long hallways clad in hospital gowns.
Dr. Sarah Broder described the majority of her patients being 75 and above and dealing with an array of health problems from high blood pressure to diabetes.
Currently they get care in a hospital that was built in 1951 and fixed with bandaid solutions, she said.
Among the reasons she gets most steamed are the South Okanagan is slated to get a prison before work on the hospital is done and the amount of money that goes to individual patient care in Vernon, compared to Penticton.
“The new patient tower will be a one stop shop that will bring privacy and dignity,” she said.
Dr. Niall Davidson stressed the need to provide doctors with the tools needed to do the job, while Dr. Randy Hamilton described surgeons doing amazing work in operating rooms that are past their prime.
Dr. Brad Raison voiced frustration over not getting a government response to the obvious need for hospital expansion in Penticton.
“They do not reward success, they reward failure,” he said. “We need the government to wake up and start rewarding success.”
Residents in attendance, many current or former patients, said they were there to support the doctors and get informed.
“I can’t get over the fact that it is so obvious that we need a hospital expansion,” said Owen Fauvel.
While Margaret Munro said she wants Penticton to be first on the list again.
“This is getting ridiculous we just keep getting bumped and bumped and bumped,” she said.
In addition to hearing about the dire need for a lifeline from the provincial government, attendees were asked to sign letters to Minister of Health Margaret MacDiarmid, urging the province to commit the funds toward beginning design of the Penticton Regional Hospital in the 2013 budget.
The total cost for the proposed new four story ambulatory care tower 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 and were told they needed to make noise.
Janice Perrino, executive director of the medical foundation, said at the meeting they will continue to do just that because of the desperate need.
Cyril Squires, a resident who carried a sign saying Penticton Hospital on Life Support, said he will continue showing support to the doctors and their cause.
“It seems like everyone else is getting support and money and Penticton appears to be getting the shaft", he said.