Health care should be above political fray

Political pressure shouldn't reduce the priority of expansion of Penticton Regional Hospital

There’s nothing unusual in a politician of any level trying to secure benefits for their constituents.

In fact, Penticton and the South Okanagan have benefited from having well-connected MLAs like Rick Thorpe and Bill Barisoff, as well as MP Stockwell Day. They have brought funding for roads, schools and a range of other projects to the region.

But when it comes to medical care, playing political funding games is much more questionable. According to Penticton Mayor Dan Ashton, a long-awaited expansion to Penticton Regional Hospital may be delayed, due to political jockeying.

According to Ashton, Penticton currently holds the top spot on Interior Health’s priority list, but MLAs Kevin Krueger and Terry Lake from the Kamloops area are trying to get IHA — which is supposed to operate without political interference — to shift that priority to give Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops the No. 1 position.

The ambulatory care extension, as Ashton said, is critical to the South Okanagan. Not only will it add badly needed services in Penticton, where the number of seniors in the population outstrips the provincial average, but it will expand facilities at a hospital that consistently operates at 110 per cent capacity, serving a large region of the Southern Interior.

Nothing is free from politics, according to Penticton MLA Bill Barisoff. Which, sadly, is true. But there should be limits, and bringing political pressure to bear on an arms-length organization like Interior Health to force it to allow your community to queue jump, shows extremely bad form, if not a questionable sense of ethics.

We join with Mayor Ashton in his call for not only city council and regional district directors to step up and speak out for PRH, but for residents of Penticton and the many communities served by the hospital to let their voices be heard by their local MLAs and Interior Health about the critical need for this long-overdue expansion.