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Penticton hospital campaigners budget for $40,000 war chest

Local taxpayers will put up half, while doctors are expected to provide a matching amount

A war chest of $40,000 should be available for twin campaigns aimed at sustaining public support for a new Penticton hospital tower.

Local politicians have agreed to cover half that amount through the Okanagan Similkameen Regional Hospital District, while doctors are expected to match the taxpayers’ contribution.

Summerland Mayor Janice Perrino, who chairs the hospital district’s board, said at a meeting Thursday that despite Premier Christy Clark’s verbal support for the tower project, it’s important to have cash available to keep pressure on B.C. government decision-makers.

“This is for advertising expenses to keep their feet to the fire. In other words, if the public stops rallying, if the medical community stops rallying and if we as politicians stop rallying, we’re afraid that they might just sit there and do nothing,” Perrino said. “That is our fear.”

The premier last week said her government had approved $2 million to develop a business case for the new ambulatory care tower. The premier also said her government had “notionally” identified room in its 10-year capital plan to fund its share of the build.

But local campaigners have said they won’t rest until the construction money is committed and shovels are in the ground.

“The campaign is far from over and there will be continued expenses,” said Garry Litke, a Penticton city councillor who is leading the community group that will be funded through the hospital district.

Litke presented a $40,000 campaign budget that provides $25,000 for advertising and promotional items, $5,000 for community engagement events, and $10,000 for public relations specialists. The city has already spent $3,000 on the campaign to date, he added.

Wes Hopkin, a Penticton city councillor and alternate director on the hospital district board, supported the campaign plan but said he had difficulties with it.

“It bothers me that we have to spend this. Regardless of whichever party’s in (power in Victoria), we shouldn’t have to do this in order to get funding for our hospital,” Hopkin said.

Bill Newell, the hospital district’s chief administrative officer, said the campaign expenses are “logical costs that should be charged against the project.”

The hospital district already had $2 million set aside to prepare the tower’s conceptual plan and business case, although Interior Health, which created the concept plan, has billed for just $350,000 so far, Newell said.

And it appears now that the premier’s $2-million promise means the B.C. government will pay for the whole business case.

Health Ministry spokesperson Ryan Jabs wrote in an email Friday: “I can confirm, Health will pay to develop hospital business case.”

The concept plan for the four-storey ambulatory care tower features a medical school, surgical suites, outpatient clinics and an oncology centre, plus a five-storey parkade beside it, with a price tag of $300 million. The hospital district has committed to spending $120 million, while the local hospital foundation has pledged another $20 million, leaving the provincial government to cover the balance.