Penticton doctors’ message heard loud and clear

Without a firm funding commitment for Penticton hospital, the B.C. Liberals can expect to pay a political price in this May’s election

Last week’s rally by Penticton doctors calling for an expansion to Penticton Regional Hospital has certainly got the message out.

An estimated 800 people crowded the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre last Wednesday night to hear the Penticton Medical Society’s case to jump-start the proposed $300-million hospital expansion.

That message reverberated across the province, garnering provincial and even national headlines and gaining the attention of B.C.’s premier.

Christy Clark stopped by the Penticton hospital on Friday during a swing through the Okanagan. The premier promised to “kick down” the barriers that have stalled plans for a four-storey ambulatory care tower. Well, the major barrier is a lack of funding from the provincial government, and Clark seems to be in no hurry to break out the chequebook.

In fairness, the premier said a business case that includes detailed financial information  — something that will take six to eight months to complete — is needed before the project can be incorporated into the budget and put out to tender.

But after seeing the expansion project that was rated as the top priority in the Interior Health region repeatedly shoved aside for more politically expedient projects elsewhere, South Okanagan residents are in no mood for fairness — they want results, now.

Penticton and the surrounding region has paid a toll for outdated and overcrowded conditions at PRH. A sympathetic ear in Victoria is no longer enough. Without a firm funding commitment from the province, the B.C. Liberals can expect to pay a political price in this May’s election.

And with the political fortunes of this government already hanging by a thread, the expansion of Penticton Regional Hospital could be one of their keys to political survival.