Foster pushes minister for beds

There’s still no guarantee that cramped quarters at Vernon Jubilee Hospital will be addressed.

There’s still no guarantee that cramped quarters at Vernon Jubilee Hospital will be addressed.

Eric Foster, Vernon-Monashee MLA, met with Health Minister Michael de Jong Thursday to discuss the need to complete two floors in the new tower as a way of opening more acute care beds.

“No news is good news. He didn’t say no to me,” said Foster.

“The minister knows there’s a bed shortage. It’s just an issue of how to come up with the funds.”

VJH is funded for 148 acute care beds but on average, there are 164 patients daily. That has led to patients in the halls and surgeries being cancelled.

The price tag to develop both floors could be $20 million, and then $20 million would be needed annually to operate the floors (with 30 beds each).

There’s been speculation that an announcement regarding beds may occur during the official opening of the tower Oct. 13. However, Foster isn’t sure if that will occur.

“He’s reluctant to give an answer,” said Foster of de Jong.

“He doesn’t want to make a promise he can’t keep. It’s all about coming up with the resources.”

Foster and de Jong also discussed the pressure the community is exerting to have the floors completed and beds opened.

“If it wasn’t for community involvement, this wouldn’t be an issue. The community is keeping this on the front page,” said Foster.

Foster was recently presented with a 6,033-name petition about beds and he plans on giving it to de Jong during this week’s Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in Vancouver because local politicians will be on hand.

Foster is confident that an announcement on funding is pending.

“I’m not letting up on this and neither is the community,” he said.

“There’s no question we’ll open beds. It’s just a matter of when. I want it sooner.”