Accusations fly over Penticton hospital

Penticton candidates trade barbs over party's commitment to expansion of Penticton Regional Hospital

Claims that the NDP’s election platform leaves no room for a new tower at Penticton Regional Hospital are a complete and utter fabrication, according to local NDP candidate Dick Cannings.

“It’s a desperate move,” said Cannings. “We will continue the process for the expansion and I look forward to the day it finally opens after all these Liberal delays.”

During a visit to Penticton in March, party leader Adrian Dix promised that the long-awaited expansion would go ahead under an NDP government.

“This hospital (tower) will be built,” said Dix. “Let’s be clear, there isn’t any choice here. People have to do something about the hospital, that has been evident for years. We’ve got to work through the process, but we’ve got to get on with it and that is what we are going to do.”

However, Liberal candidate Dan Ashton said the NDP election platform released Wednesday has scuttled Dix’s promise.

On page 55 of their platform, the NDP states, “An NDP government will continue with projects that are currently underway,” but goes on to say that they “…will not be making capital commitments beyond what is available in the current capital plan.”

“Mr. Dix says one thing when he visits Penticton, but when he announces his platform in Victoria his commitment to redevelop our hospital evaporates,” said Ashton. “Because of out-of-control spending promises, the NDP will not have the money to rebuild the hospital.”

Cannings admits the Liberals are quoting the NDP platform correctly, though he reads the meaning differently.

“Maybe the Liberals don’t consider the expansion at PRH underway. But that reflects more on them than us,” said Cannings.

In March, Premier Christy Clark announced the government was moving ahead with plans for a new patient care tower at PRH by proceeding with a business case for redevelopment.

“As mayor of Penticton and chair of the regional district, I’ve been working non-stop to get the new patient tower built. As an MLA I will make sure the hospital’s business case is completed and construction start as soon as possible. We all know that redeveloping our hospital is the number one priority for our region and a B.C. Liberal government recognizes this. With the release of the NDP platform, the NDP have abandoned the people from the South Okanagan,” added Ashton.

But according to Cannings, the NDP have been very clear they will honour any commitments made by the B.C. Liberals, quoting NDP health critic Mike Farnworth.

“If elected, the NDP will make good on any Liberal commitments that have funding attached. If they have committed to a business plan, then we would definitely follow through on a business plan,” said Farnworth.

This business case is expected to be completed by the end of the year or early 2014. Following approval of this business case, the procurement process for the construction of the new tower would commence.