City wants beds added to hospital tower

Vernon politicians are joining the fight against overcrowding at the local hospital.

Physicians have called on city council to lobby the provincial government for more acute care beds at Vernon Jubilee Hospital.

“We need to get the public involved,” said Coun. Jack Gilroy of the need for funding to open two shelled-in floors in the new patient care tower.

“A provincial election is coming so it’s a good time to push for beds.”

VJH receives funding for 148 acute-care beds but that number is frequently surpassed. At one point, there were 192 patients admitted.

No official action has been taken by the city yet, but Mayor Wayne Lippert anticipates that council may do something after a presentation from nurses in two weeks.

“We’ve assured the doctors that we support them,” he said.

“The hospital is very important to us and we’ve worked with the doctors, the Interior Health Authority and other groups before.”

In a presentation to council, the doctors stated that VJH is consistently overcapacity and that is leading to cancelled surgeries and an increase in infection rates.

“We’re still at a daily code purple. It’s the norm,” said Dr. Chris Cunningham.

“We’ve worked hard to improve efficiencies but we’re in a worse situation.”

And while the doctors believe the new patient care tower will improve health care in the North Okanagan, they state the tower does not include any new beds.

“We’re afraid it will be code purple on day one,” said Cunningham, adding that the only solution is to develop the two shelled-in floors and provide operating funds.

“If we had these two floors available for patients, we’d be able to handle these crisis and manage these patients.”

The doctors say 30 beds on one floor  must be opened immediately, with 30 beds on the other floor required soon after that.

“To not complete the shelled-in floors is a mistake,” said Cunningham.

It could cost about $10 million to build each of the shelled-in floors and then $10 million each annually to operate the floors.

It’s been suggested that when some departments move to the new tower, the vacant space in the current hospital could be converted into beds. However, Cunningham says the building is old and there are inadequate standards for infection control.

The physicians recently met with Health Minister Mike de Jong, who made no guarantee of funding.

“The fact that he came to listen to us is a positive but more needs to be done at the provincial level,” said Cunningham.