Adrian Dix

Adrian Dix

Dix demands Victoria open beds

B.C.’s official opposition claims the North Okanagan’s needs are being ignored.

B.C.’s official opposition claims the North Okanagan’s needs are being ignored.

NDP leader Adrian Dix says it’s time for the Liberal government to listen to residents and address overcrowding at Vernon Jubilee Hospital.

“You had Tom Christensen for four years (as MLA) and now you have had Eric Foster for two years and there’s been no action,” said Dix during a brief stop in Vernon Wednesday.

“It’s OK to show up at rallies but after seven years of code purple, people want action. With the greatest respect to Eric Foster, the Liberals act like they own the Okanagan and that they don’t have to represent the area.”

VJH is funded for 148 acute care beds but on average, there are 164 patients daily.  As a result, patients have been placed in hallways and surgeries have been cancelled.

Health Minister Michael de Jong stated earlier this week that an announcement on more acute care beds won’t likely occur until early in 2012 because the government must review funding options.

“We have a hospital that is chronically over-capacity,” said Dix.

“Does the minister honestly believe it’s better to house patients in the hallway?”

It could cost $20 million to develop two shelled-in floors for beds, and then $20 million annually to operate the floors.

Dix says there are ways for the government to fund more beds and says the extra patients admitted at VJH daily indicates there is money available.

“People in the North Okanagan know they need the beds,” he said.

Eric Foster, Vernon-Monashee MLA, is not impressed with the comments made by Dix Wednesday.

“Ask Adrian how the view is from the cheap seats. It’s easy to criticize when you’re not making the decisions,” said Foster, adding that  funding options must be investigated.

“We need beds and nobody is debating the need for beds but there is a price to everything. Mr. Dix thinks there is an endless supply of money.”

Foster says he will continue to lobby de Jong for the two floors to be completed.

“We are going to do the project,” he said.

Health Minister Michael de Jong and Foster were at VJH Thursday for the official opening of the $180 million Polson tower, which began accepting patients in late September.