Supporters rally for Penticton hospital
Motorists happily leaned on their horns Wednesday to cheer on about 100 demonstrators who lined the roads near Penticton Regional Hospital to support a $300-million expansion of the facility.
The rally was organized by a group of local doctors that’s gone public with its bid to have the B.C. government commit to fundings its $160-million share of a new ambulatory care tower.
Among those waving signs in the steady drizzle of cold rain was retired nurse Teri Noriega, who worked in hospitals in eastern Canada and now volunteers at PRH.
“I’ve seen good hospital policy and buildings, and this does not fit, in my opinion,” she said.
Penticton’s hospital, built in 1951, “is just antiquated and needs to be upgraded. We have to get this done or we’re going to be sorry in the long run,” Noriega said.
Dr. Brent Harrold, an emergency room physician at PRH, said Wednesday’s rally was the first time he has demonstrated publicly since a 2002 protest against the closure of Summerland’s hospital.
He said the ER wouldn’t benefit directly from the proposed four-storey tower, which would feature outpatient services like day surgeries and diagnostics, but it would make life easier for patients.
“I think we can provide a lot of services more efficiently if (staff) have adequate room to do so,” Harrold said.
“We’re not asking for more in-patient beds,” he added. “We’re basically just asking to provide the essential (outpatient) services.”
The rally was organized by the Penticton Medical Staff Society, which represents 120 physicians who work at the hospital.
Society president Dr. David Paisley said despite not yet having a funding commitment for the tower from the B.C. government, the campaign has been effective.
He noted the kick-off event, a town hall meeting on Feb. 6, attracted 800 people, prompted a visit from the premier and generated some of the 5,000 form letters hat have been sent off to Victoria.
Doctors haven’t yet plotted their next move, Paisley said, and the tower appears stalled again while the B.C. government explores options to expedite the business case it says is needed to fund the project.
“It is a waiting game,” he added, (but) we’ll keep on getting our message out.”