Doctors and politicians said Wednesday they were devastated the expansion of Penticton Regional Hospital was not included in the provincial budget.
The physicians and others have stepped up efforts in recent months to bring what they say is much needed upgrades to the aging building.
‘We are really disappointed,” said Dr. David Paisley, president of the Penticton Medical Society. "But we are 100 per cent committed to moving the project forward . Where there is a political will, there is a political way."
Paisley said the doctors will continue to make the project a number one priority for the public and will likely organize another meeting. A format for that is not set as yet
Both leaders of the Liberal party and the NDP are also aware of the project, and physicians will continue to remind them about it, he added.
"We were identified as the number one priority for the region years ago, but as of yet none of the funding has come through and three other hospital projects (expansions and upgrades in Vernon, Kamloops and Kelowna) have been given the go-ahead and have been built or are being built – including a $200 million project at the Kelowna hospital that includes a huge administration block," he said. "We need space for patient care and we need it now."
Janice Perrino, executive director of the South Okanagan Similkameen Medical Foundation, said it wasn’t really a surprise the expansion project was not included.
“Still we are very disappointed," she said. "And we do not intend to stop fighting for this."
Nothing is set in stone on what will happen next, but the medical society will carry on and continue to push for this because it’s a real priority for Penticton and the region, she stated.
“Everyone in this region uses the hospital which is an old facility," she said.
Mayor Dan Ashton said he too was not surprised it was not in the budget, because all the steps for funding have not been completed.
The doctors took the unusual step of forming a self-funded association, the Penticton Medical Society, in order to draw attention to the plight of the hospital.
Constructed in 1951 to service a population of 10,000, the hospital is bursting at the seams, with specialist services placed in areas that were never designed for that.
Current statistics show that the hospital is operating at 107% capacity, and now serves a regional population of more than 90,000 residents.
Despite the growth and demand, doctors at the hospital are still treating patients in small rooms that weren’t designed to accommodate the current technology that is considered standard of care now.
A doctors' meeting focused on the need for a new patient care tower to serve the needs of an aging and growing population was held last week. It was attended by around 750 residents.
Premier Christy Clark then paid a visit to the hospital to show support but did not make any firm commitments.
Doctors subsequently sent the premier a letter saying they need a commitment from her and the Liberal party that the tower will be approved.
The expansion costs $300 million. Much of that cost is covered, with the province being asked to pay a share of $160 million.