Congestion is being eased at Vernon Jubilee Hospital.
It was announced Thursday that $29.6 million will go towards 60 beds on the two unfinished floors in the Polson tower — 14 new and the remainder from the existing wards.
“There is a lot of pressure currently in the hospital that won’t happen any longer,” said Margaret MacDiarmid, health minister.
Thursday’s announcement will see the total number of beds at VJH increase from 148 to 162.
Construction of the two floors should begin in the fall, with the project completed by the summer of 2015.
Of the $29.6 million, $22 million is coming from the provincial government.
MacDiarmid announced that the remainder of the money will come from the North Okanagan-Columbia-Shuswap Regional Hospital District and the Vernon Jubilee Hospital Foundation. However, both organizations say they have not committed any dollars at this time.
“We’ve had discussions about the project and there is support,” said Rhona Martin, NOCSRHD chairperson, adding, though, that a final decision will be made as part of the 2013 budget.
Foundation officials say that while they support development of the additional beds, the volunteer board has not had a discussion on a financial contribution.
Any funds from the regional hospital district would come on top of the money it spent to shell-in the two floors for possible development when the rest of the tower was built. Victoria did not contribute to shelling in the floors.
When asked if shelling in the floors would be considered NOCSRHD’s involvement, MacDiarmid said she could not speak for the hospital district and, “They are very supportive and they will be financially contributing.”
In April 2012, the ministry stated the two top floors in the Polson tower would be developed for acute care beds. However, specifics on the number of beds and construction timeline were only provided Thursday.
“It’s great,” said Dr. Michael Concannon, part of a group of physicians who lobbied to end patients in hallways and cancelled surgeries.
“Being able to take patients out of the 1940s ward and into a state-of-the-art hospital is huge.”
Connanon stated he is satisfied with the government’s plans given that these are “challenging economic times and resources are tight. We have done very well here in Vernon.”
The doctors were joined in their lobbying efforts by Eric Foster, Vernon-Monashee MLA.
“I’m pleased we are moving forward,” said Foster after Thursday’s announcement.
Foster admits that the process determining the future of the project took considerable time.
“Other requests were put in with the pack and there was back-and-forth between the Interior Health Authority and the ministry about long-term needs.”
Most of the beds will be in single-rooms, which will allow hospital staff to better control infections because four-bed and double-occupancy wards will be abandoned.
Once beds move into the tower, vacant spaces in the existing part of the hospital will be available for future needs.
While there are specifics about capital construction, no details were provided about how much money will be needed for nurses and other staff on the two floors.
“There will be a budget to operate those beds,” said MacDiarmid.
Mark Olsen, Vernon-Monashee NDP candidate, is not impressed with the government’s plans.
“It’s 14 beds they’re adding and they are announcing it just before a tough election,” he said.
“They shouldn’t be playing political games with an announcement and photo-op.”