The countdown is on for expanded health care in the North Okanagan.
A clock was unveiled at Vernon Jubilee Hospital Monday to signify 55 days until the opening of the sixth and seventh floors in the Polson tower.
“It will serve as a reminder to all of those attending the hospital,” said Richard Harding, VJH administrator of the clock.
Construction of the two floors is largely completed and now staff are starting to orient themselves with the space and new equipment prior to the first patients arriving Jan. 31.
The two floors contain 60 beds, with 14 brand new and the remaining 46 coming from the Jubilee tower.
Most of them are single rooms and that will provide patients with enhanced privacy.
“The main benefit is from reducing hospital acquired infection,” said Harding, adding that allows patients to be discharged sooner.
There are also two rooms on each floor for patients who need increased levels of isolation.
Other features include rehabilitation activity rooms.
“This allows us to do assessments for patients and support daily living in their own home,” said Harding.
Eight of the beds on the sixth floor will be for telemetry patients who need increased heart rate monitoring.
Health care unions and some residents have expressed concerns that 14 new beds won’t help ease wait lists at the hospital, but Harding is optimistic.
“Overcrowding is a chronic problem throughout health care and these beds are much needed,” he said.
Many of the 46 rooms being vacated in the Jubilee tower are being transitioned from four to semi-private wards.
Once the floors are open, there will be 182 beds in the hospital.Construction on the two floors began in 2014.
“When we made the announcement (about the project), it looked like an underground car park,” said Eric Foster, Vernon-Monashee MLA.
“Now with the furniture, you have a real good idea of what it will look like. I’m impressed.”
With the $30 million project wrapping up, Foster isn’t sure what the government may invest in next at VJH.
“We will have to have that conversation. There are a bunch of requests out there,” he said.
Funding for the two floors came from the provincial government, the North Okanagan-Columbia-Shuswap Regional Hospital District and the Vernon Jubilee Hospital Foundation.