Premier Christy Clark made a surprise visit to Penticton Regional Hospital Friday to show support for the proposed expansion.
Clark toured the hospital, speaking with doctors and patients, and spent time viewing the new patient tower model and meeting with people in the lobby.
“This hospital has been stalled for too long and this community deserves a better hospital than the one they have,” she said. “They, (doctors), are wasting a lot of time now with the overflow and we can allow them do to more useful work if we expand.”
Clark, who was in the Okanagan for the day, said she planned to talk to the health ministry on her return home and tell them they need to get started on this.
Clark’s appearance at the hospital, followed a doctors’ town hall meeting this week, attended by around 750 people.
At the meeting, physicians spoke of the dire need for a hospital expansion now to meet the needs of a growing and aging population in the South Okanagan.
Janice Perrino, executive director of the South Okanagan Similkameen Medical Foundation, said Clark’s visit was a big boost for the doctors.
“She was gracious, and it was clear she sees the need to move to the next stage of a business plan, where you look at costs and timeline,” she said.
Perrino said local politicians have been involved with the effort to expand the hospital, built in 1951, for months, sending hundreds of letters to the government.
But it was this week’s meeting that really made a difference.
“It took the doctors talking to the public to make the premier come, and she did,” she said.
Politicians and doctors will continue to get the word out that the time to get something done is now," she said.
The total cost for the proposed four story ambulatory tower is $300 million. The Okanagan Similkameen Regional Hospital District Board has agreed to fund $120 million and the medical foundation will fund $20 million.
That makes $160 million needed from the province.
In January, members of the board were told they needed to make noise when they demanded answers from Interior Health regarding the future of the hospital.