Minister mum on Penticton hospital expansion

Okanagan-Similkameen Regional Hospital District chair makes case for $300 million new hospital tower and parkade

Champions of a plan to build a new hospital tower in Penticton put their case to B.C. Health Minister Mike de Jong this week, but walked away with information only.

“He was really impressed with everything that we were able to offer, but he’s under huge restraints and obviously he couldn’t commit to anything,” said Janice Perrino, who fronted the local delegation at the sit-down Tuesday in West Kelowna.

Perrino, chair of the Okanagan-Similkameen Regional Hospital District, said the get-together was a “strategy meeting” that gave her group insight into the health planning process, and impressed upon the minister the need for a new patient care tower in Penticton.

She told de Jong that Penticton Regional Hospital was opened in 1953 for a population of 10,500, and almost 60 years later its service area has grown to 85,000 people and is “grossly undersized.”

De Jong, who visited the hospital in October, could not be reached for comment but apparently told the group that the provincial government would start putting together its budget in December before spooling down for the May 2013 election. Perrino said it’s hoped that even if there is a change of government, the hospital will remain a priority for the Health Ministry, and possibly form a plank in a party’s election platform.

“But let’s face it: everybody’s going to be trying to vie for money.”

The hospital district has spent $700,000 putting together the new tower’s business case, which is expected to be sent to Victoria by the end of the summer. The four-storey facility and five-storey parkade beside it are expected to cost $300 million, but not result in new operating costs or layoffs upon opening.

Perrino said the regional district has committed $120 million to the build, while the hospital foundation has pledged $20 million.