Local politicians continue to demand that overcrowding be addressed at Vernon Jubilee Hospital.
Elected officials toured VJH with physicians and Interior Health Authority administration Wednesday, and the main focus was two shelled-in floors that could be used for more acute care beds.
“We wanted to see how the tower is working now that it’s in use and to keep in the forefront that we’d like those two floors opened,” said Jim Garlick, Coldstream mayor.
Physicians, nurses and the public have been pushing for the two floors to be developed to alleviate congestion, which has led to patients in hallways and surgeries cancelled.
The Ministry of Health says capital and operating funds are an issue, but Garlick insists creative options are needed.
“One of the ideas is one of the two floors being a centre of excellence for joint replacement,” he said, adding many of those cases now go to Vancouver.
Another possibility could be using a floor as a working classroom for University of B.C. medical students.
“They need to form a group and come up with something that makes it possible,” said Garlick of IHA and doctors.
Also on the tour was Vernon-Monashee MLA Eric Foster.
“He’s looking for ways to make this happen,” said Garlick, adding that he and other civic leaders will also continue to lobby the provincial government.
“We need to be talking to people at a higher level — cabinet ministers — and institutions like UBC.”
Not meeting mandated provincial targets for knee, hip and cataract surgeries has cost IHA $3.4 million, and Vernon Mayor Rob Sawatzky suggests that could have been avoided by opening more beds.
“No matter what standard we use, we’re dramatically under serviced with beds,” said the retired doctor.
It’s been previously suggested that a shortage of nurses could be a challenge if there are more beds, but Sawatzky doesn’t believe that is a concern.
“All that takes is good management (of staff),” he said.
Nancy Serwo, VJH acute area director, believes Wednesday’s tour was worthwhile.
“It was a great opportunity to highlight the positive things happening here and all of the hard work,” she said.
In terms of new beds possibly opening, Serwo says, “We are working closely with MLA Foster and the ministry.”