Business case for Penticton hospital put to tender “soon”

Premier Christy Clark may have been too generous with her promise of $2 million for a business case for a proposed tower at Penticton Regional Hospital. - Western News file photo
Premier Christy Clark may have been too generous with her promise of $2 million for a business case for a proposed tower at Penticton Regional Hospital.
— image credit: Western News file photo

There isn’t a shovel in sight yet, but Premier Christy Clark is already well under budget on a proposed patient care tower at Penticton Regional Hospital.

Clark announced in March that her government would give Interior Health the go-ahead to develop a business case for the tower project. She also said the Treasury Board had approved $2 million to complete the planning work.

It appears that offer was too generous, as the cost of the business case is expected to come in at $500,000. It’s also now fully funded.

The Okanagan Similkameen Regional Hospital District board on Thursday approved a $200,000 contribution, and Interior Health intends to cover the balance.

Janice Perrino, who chairs the OSRHD board, thinks the premier likely mis-spoke when she mentioned the $2 million.

“That’s where it got confusing, because the truth is, we’d always planned to pay for it,” Perrino said.

Years ago, the OSHRD tucked away $2 million to fund a concept plan and business case, although its share for both is expected to be just $729,000.

Perrino said there are no plans now to chase down Clark to find out if she intended to have the B.C. government cover the entire cost, because the district’s cash gives it some clout.

“We become active players at the table. Personally, I kind of like that, so I’m not going to squabble about, ‘You said, he said, she said, whatever,’” Perrino explained.

The OSHRD team has also drafted a high-profile player to help its cause.

Rick Thorpe, the former MLA for Okanagan-Westside, has volunteered his services free of charge. He will provide advice and help guide the project through the proper government channels.

During part of his 13-year term in office, which ended when he retired in 2009, Thorpe served as vice-chair of the Treasury Board and was involved in the decision to fund hospital expansion projects in Kelowna and Vernon.

He hopes to leverage that experience on behalf of the OSHRD.

“I do understand the process,” Thorpe said, “so I’m just trying to help them in that regard.”

The business case is the fourth and final step in the government-mandated planning process for new hospitals, and will fill in details, such as schedules and expected costs, that are needed to put the construction contract out to tender.

Interior Health spokesperson Lisa Braman said via email that her agency received written permission to proceed with the business case on March 25, just five days after the premier’s announcement in Penticton.

Braman said Interior Health will put the business case out to tender “soon,” and a third-party contractor will do the actual work, which is expected to be complete by spring or summer of 2014.

As conceived, the four-storey ambulatory care tower would feature a medical school, surgical suites, outpatient clinics and an oncology centre. The $300-million plan also calls for a five-story parkade next door.

The hospital district has committed to chip in $120 million for the project, while the local hospital foundation has pledged $20 million. The province is expected to cover the balance.

Proponents of the project, which is meant to address issues at the overcrowded and outdated hospital, have previously expressed concern that the government may only agree to a scaled back version of what’s proposed in the concept plan.

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