Vernon Monashee MLA Eric Foster speaks on the new floors being completed in the Vernon Jubilee Hospital Polson Tower.

Vernon Monashee MLA Eric Foster speaks on the new floors being completed in the Vernon Jubilee Hospital Polson Tower.

Expansion begins at Vernon Jubilee Hospital

The two top floors in the Polson tower will be turned into inpatient units.

A multi-million-dollar project is expected to help alleviate some of the congestion at Vernon Jubilee Hospital.

Construction has started on turning the two top floors in the Polson tower into inpatient units.

“It’s a real milestone for us,” said Nancy Serwo, VJH administrator, during a ceremony Wednesday.

The $29.6 million project will include 60 beds — 14 of which will be new while the remainder will be relocated from existing parts of the hospital.

The funds were announced two years ago, but a planning process and selecting a contractor meant construction didn’t begin until now.

“In the next couple of weeks, there will be dust flying,” said Eric Foster, Vernon-Monashee MLA.

Construction should be done by late 2015, with patients moved into the units by early 2016.

The funding is coming from the provincial government, the North Okanagan-Columbia-Shuswap Regional Hospital District and the Vernon Jubilee Hospital Foundation.

The majority of the beds will be in private rooms.

“It will mean patients can stay away from potential infections and get out of the hospital sooner,” said Rhona Martin, NOCSRHD chairperson.

The VJH Foundation is currently raising $2.5 million to equip the two floors and about $1.4 million has been raised to date.

“Thank you to our generous community for all of its efforts so far,” said Elise Allan, VJHF president.

Over the next two years, the Interior Health Authority will determine how to use the existing space vacated when beds move to the tower.

“It gives us more flexibility,” said Serwo, adding that some of the space could be used for additional beds.