Okanagan Similkameen Regional Hospital Board Chair Janice Perrino presented $1,338,400 worth of funding requests to the regional district board prior to bringing the board up to date with the latest funding attempts for the ambulatory care unit at Penticton Regional Hospital.
Perrino reported that thirty million dollars has been set aside in reserves for the project to date.
With a number of Interior Health representatives present at the meeting, Perrino questioned what IH was doing to lobby the province for the project.
“We feel we’ve been neglected in this valley,” she told IH Board Chair Norman Embree, who was also present to answer questions from Perrino and the board.
Perrino quoted statistics that indicated health spending in the interior region was much higher in the north that in the south Okangan; $92 per person over a10 year period in Vernon, $108 in Kelowna and $22 in Penticton.
“It’s out turn, our time, and long overdue,” added RDOS Board Chair Dan Ashton, noting that Penticton’s hospital was an extremely efficient operation.
“It’s time to stand together, in front of any government, and say its Penticton’s turn,” he said.
“I agree with all the things you are saying,” answered Embree, who added that “I absolutely agree its Penticton’s turn.”
He further explained that Interior Health was funded by the province, in addition to five other health authorities, who also had lists of projects.
“Just because Penticton’s ambulatory care unit was number one on IH’s list, doesn’t mean it’s number one on the treasury board’s list,” he said.
Perrino insisted that IH appeared to be “deathly quiet” when it came to advancing the Penticton project, describing other health projects in Kamloops and Vernon that were funded before Penticton’s, even though they were rated as low as fifth on the list.
“We’ve not wavered,” Embree responded, “Penticton has always been number one – the issue comes up every time we deal with the province.”
Penticton Director and Hospital Board Vice Chair Gary Litke found Embree’s explanations regarding project decisions by the province to be “very disturbing.”
“It’s an unprincipled way to make a decision, when a fifth ranked project can go to number one due to a squeaky wheel – the message is nice guys finish last. There’s something wrong with that kind of model.”
“It may be disturbing, but that’s the way it is,” responded Embree.
Perrino concluded that the hospital board had “been nice too long,” promising that the push to get provincial funding would get more difficult.
“We’re not going to be nice any more,” she said.