Major expansion gets green light at Vernon Jubilee Hospital

Expansion at Vernon Jubilee Hospital is being embraced enthusiastically, but health care professionals are also anxiously awaiting the details.

The Ministry of Health confirmed Friday the two top floors in the Polson tower will be developed for acute care beds — although the number of beds, the type of beds and the time frame are still unknown.

“It’s a good first step,” said Christine Sorensen, with the B.C. Nurses Union.

“I would have liked more details on the beds and what the two floors will actually entail. It could be 2014 until we have the facility so I still have concerns about patient care.”

Dr. Ed Hardy, president of medical staff, is excited about the government’s commitment.

“It’s huge they’re doing both floors at the same time,” he said of needing to ease overcrowding.

However, Hardy admits there is a level of uncertainty about how the floors will be used.

“How many beds will be surgical or medical? Will we be able to decommission some old beds?” he said.

A firm cost for completing the floors hasn’t been determined, but it could be more than $20 million. A process will be launched to identify how many beds will be opened and the time frame, although construction could begin in spring 2013.

Operating costs haven’t been finalized but the Ministry of Health ensures they will be covered.

“There’s no sense putting beds in if we don’t have the staff,” said Eric Foster, Vernon-Monashee MLA.

The decision to proceed with the two floors came after years of lobbying by residents, civic leaders and health care workers.

“Without public support, this wouldn’t have happened,” said Hardy.

There was also recognition of Foster who pushed the government for action.

“True to his role as a local representative, he has never shied away from what the needs of his area are,” said Michael de Jong, health minister.

“He made it clear he would not rest until those needs were met.”

Foster gives credit to nurses, doctors, the public and resident Peter Hill, who organized rallies.

“We needed it and the community supported it,” he said of additional beds.

“We’ve got great health care now and we will soon have super health care.”

Foster says he never doubted the project would move ahead but it took time for the government to determine funding, given other financial pressures.

“It’s been a bit of a haul but we got here.”

Besides rallies, Hill also orchestrated public opinion through a petition and meetings.

“It’s a big day,” he said shortly after hearing de Jong’s announcement.

“It’s what the community has been asking for.”

North Okanagan politicians are also pleased to see capacity issues being addressed at VJH.

“I have spent a night in a hallway myself so it will mean better patient care,” said Kevin Acton, Lumby mayor.



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