New leader makes pitch for VJH

B.C.’s official opposition claims the North Okanagan has been abandoned by Victoria.

Adrian Dix, the NDP’s new leader, says he supports physicians who are demanding funds for additional acute care beds at Vernon Jubilee Hospital.

“I’ve been calling for the government to address the  situation for years,” said Dix in an interview Wednesday.

During a tour of the new patient care tower, Health Minister Michael de Jong stated that his ministry will review conditions at VJH but there is no guarantee of funding for beds.

Physicians have warned that the new tower will do nothing to alleviate overcrowding and two shelled-in floors must be developed immediately to increase beds.

VJH receives funding for 148 acute-care beds but that number is frequently surpassed. At one point earlier this year, there were 192 patients admitted.

“We’re spending enormous amounts of money on the tower but it’s clear there’s an under-capacity of acute-care beds,” said Dix.

“I’ve been at the hospital when 32 patients are admitted and there’s no room to go up to the wards.”

It could cost about $10 million to build each of the shelled-in floors and then $10 million each annually to operate the floors (with 30 beds each).

“Vernon is a high priority for the NDP because the community has been left behind on health care,” said Dix.

“The government is not listening to the doctors. They are not listening to the thousands of people who have signed petitions. They are not listening to health care workers. They are not listening to nurses.”

Beyond the North Okanagan, Dix says there needs to be greater emphasis on health care in non-urban areas.

“We have seen a retreat of the government from rural B.C. In many small communities, there’s not access to primary health care,” he said.

Dix believes there should be additional resources for schools and health care as a way of retaining residents and drawing new people to communities.

“Those are key areas of investment for the local economy.”