Mar 21, 2013 / 6:00 am
Premier Christy Clark’s announcement Wednesday that she is committed to moving ahead with plans for a new patient tower at Penticton Regional Hospital received a mixed reaction.
While many see it as a step in the right direction, others described it as a lot of fanfare for an announcement that was about the business case, not any actual construction.
“I am thrilled, absolutely thrilled, because I was so afraid this could escalate to someone’s life being lost in our aging hospital,” said Councillor Judy Sentes. “This is long overdue and the need is so desperate.”
While Councillor Wes Hopkin said he appreciated the premier coming, he still feels the community deserves better.
"I'm really disappointed it took us to have rallies and write letters, really protest to get anything done," he said. "I don't think government should work that way."
Clark said at the early morning meeting, attended by hospital staff, dignitaries and the media, that the government is proceeding with business case planning for a new patient tower at the hospital.
It is something she has been committed to since her visit to the hospital last month, where she observed some of the problems at the aging facility, originally constructed in 1950, she said..
The business case will get underway next month and is expected to be completed in2013-2014. Following completion of the case, procurement for construction of a new patient care tower could commence.
Penticton residents Jeff Stuckenbrock and Sheri Syrette welcomed what the premier had to say.
Stuckenbrock, who recently had surgery at the hospital, said Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, where the couple last lived, just got a big, beautiful, multi-million dollar facility that was clearly needed because it was an old hospital.
“The hospital there was just like this one, so it would be nice to see something done here,” he said.
Syrette, who had a baby at the hospital not long ago, said the sooner the better.
“I personally think anything that can help improve the care and help the people who work there provide better care is needed, because they are amazing,” she said.
But Dick Cannings, the BC NDP candidate for Penticton, said it is yet another example of a Liberal candidate putting campaigning ahead of governing.
“The business case should have been in progress long ago, and we could be a lot further down the road to upgrades needed to our hospital,” he said. “Yet no action was taken until voters signaled that they were fed up with how they have been treated, and we're considering a change. I think that is reason enough for voters to choose change this election.”
Janice Perrino, executive director of the South Okanagan Similkameen Medical Foundation, said everybody is going to be a little skeptical, but she sees it as good news, a step in the right direction.
“If the Liberals win the election, Christy has made it clear, now they are agreeing to the business plan that the money will be in the treasury to start construction sometime in 2014. That’s what she said this morning,” she said.”I think even if the Liberals lose, the NDP will be honour bound to come forward with the Liberal’s commitment, no matter what.”
Mayor Dan Ashton said he heard loud and clear that the business plan is moving ahead.
“I am ecstatic,” he said. “The premier said on her last visit that she was going to push down fences to push this through."
Ashton claimed the opposition leader for the NDP, Adrian Dix, has also been in Penticton three times and has avoided the hospital like the plague.
Still, he does not want the issue of getting a new patient tower to be political.
“We should take that out of it, because health care should not be a political issue,” he said.
Dr. David Paisley, president of the Penticton Medical Staff Society, which has drawn attention to the need for a new tower, said we are pleased to see Premier Clark making a public commitment to move the hospital care tower ahead.
"We do, however, need to keep up the pressure and make sure it does not stall along the way, which ever government gets elected shortly," he said. "We cannot relax until the ground is actually broken."
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