As we flip into a new calendar year there’s one priority being delivered over into 2012 by Vernon-Monashee’s MLA.
Getting the two shelled-in floors up and running at Vernon Jubilee Hospital’s new Polson tower is something Eric Foster will continue to demand.
“That’s my No. 1 push every day and we’ll keep it up until we see patients in the beds,” said Foster, who recently met with the ministers of health and finance to discuss the issue, again. “I can guarantee they’re not going to forget me, because I don’t let them.”
As much as the local communities want, and need, the added acute care beds, Foster understands that the government has a lot to consider before dipping into its coffers.
Aside from the estimated $10 million it will cost to equip each of the floors, there will be another $6 to $9 million annually to operate each of them.
“That number goes on forever,” said Foster of the annual operation cost.
Foster is also considerate of the fact that he’s not the only one asking for health care funding.
“Of course I’m beating on the door to get beds in the hospital and someone else is beating on the door to get a hospital.”
Foster estimates that across the province there is a $100-billion wish list of projects. Yet there’s only a $42 billion budget, which is needed to cover existing services.
“You still have to have health care, you still have to have education, you still have to have services,” he said, adding that the government doesn’t like to incur debt.
While B.C.’s economy is strong compared to many others across the globe, Foster admits times are still tough.
“It’s not like the cash is rolling in, in truckloads right now.
“The next year is going to be a tough year for everybody. It’s a pre-election year and in a pre-election year you usually give away the farm, well there is no farm.”
Another impact that the government had budgeted for was federal funds to the tune of $1.6 billion for the HST.
But those funds are being extinguished along with the HST.
“That was disappointing,” said Foster of the referendum results, which he expects will be fulfilled by February 2013 at the latest.
“We’re trying to figure out a way for us to go back to the old system. The minister of finance is saying the absolute longest time is going to be 18 months.”
In the meantime, Foster is pleased with how the government is moving ahead, under the leadership of Premier Christy Clark, with other core services — from a change in the funding formula for education to $30 million for skills training to get more people working.
Locally, tenders are expected to go out in the spring for re-alignment of Highway 6 at Kalamalka Road, now that discussions with the various stakeholders have wrapped up.
And social agencies, both locally and across the province, are a challenge that the government is working to address.
Foster says such organizations do a more efficient job than if the government were to do it, therefore it is important to keep them operating.
“The Upper Room Mission is another organization we’re working with to try and find them some money for their kitchen.”