Property owners to pump money into hospital project

Regional hospital district to provide $5.5 million to complete top two floors in VJH Polson Tower

The final piece is in place for funding an expansion at Vernon Jubilee Hospital.

The North Okanagan-Columbia-Shuswap Regional Hospital District board voted Tuesday to provide $5.5 million to complete the two top floors in VJH’s Polson tower for acute care beds.

“There is no question that the project needs to be done,” said director Mike Macnabb.

The Ministry of Health announced the NOCSRHD’s participation in the $29.5 million project in February, but the district did not make an actual decision on involvement until Tuesday.

“Given the situation over the last few years (with over-crowding), we don’t have much choice,” said director Rob Sawatzky.

Of the remaining $29.5 million, the bulk will come from the provincial government, with the Vernon Jubilee Hospital Foundation contributing $2.5 million.

But while the NOCSRHD is on board, there are is some frustration that local property owners have to ease the government’s financial responsibility.

“The taxpayers have to put money into this,” said Macnabb.

Macnabb would have preferred that the $5.5 million for the project be found through Interior Health Authority operational savings.

However, IHA officials insist that is not possible.

“IH is looking at efficiencies on the operating side,” said Scott Bowen, business support director.

“But we aren’t able to redirect operational efficiencies to capital.”

IHA also says operating cost-savings will help fund the $6.8 million needed to run the two floors once they are open in the summer of 2015.

The project will include 60 beds — 14 new and the remainder from the existing wards.

“People are quite shocked with what we’re netting out at (for new beds),” said director Juliette Cunningham.

Vacated space in the oldest part of VJH will go from four-bed to two-bed wards, and that is reinforcing director Rob Sawatzky’s concerns about the project.

“This is not enough new beds to address over-crowded usage of the hospital,” said Sawatzky, a retired physician.

IHA is currently identifying potential contractors and expects construction on the two floors to begin in late 2013.