Any hopes that new acute care beds will get the green light Thursday have been dashed.
Health Minister Michael de Jong will be at the official opening of the Polson tower but he will not make an announcement about completion of the two upper floors to alleviate ongoing congestion.
“We are making progress and identifying ways to address capacity issues,” de Jong told The Morning Star.
He anticipates that a decision on acute care beds will be made early in the new year.
“Capital funding is challenging but it must be funded operationally year-after-year,” he said of the two floors.
“It’s a case of trying to find money when it’s scarce and there are competing needs across the province.”
The price tag to develop both floors could be $20 million, and then $20 million would be needed annually to operate the floors (with 30 beds each).
“I am relatively hopeful and confident we can do it,” said de Jong.
VJH is funded for 148 acute care beds but on average, there are 164 patients daily. As a result, there have been patients in the halls and surgeries cancelled.
Doctors have insisted both floors, at 30 beds each, are required to alleviate overcrowding. However, de Jong says the projected cost could lead to only one floor possibly being done at a time.
“If you are a physician, you want as much as you can get, but I have to be mindful of the cost and what the numbers say about capacity,” he said.
De Jong has been the focus of intense lobbying from Vernon-Monashee MLA Eric Foster, municipal councils, residents, physicians and nurses.
A 6,033-name petition demanding completion of the two floors was recently presented to de Jong.
“The message has been heard and MLA Foster has said this is the No. 1 priority of the region,” said de Jong.
Doctors claim the new tower has done little to ease overcapacity issues.
“Since opening day, admitted patients continue to be held in emergency stretchers due to the inadequate number of acute care beds,” said Michael Concannon, an emergency room physician.
“Given the continued severity of the dire overcrowding problem at VJH, we are hopeful that a solution — completion of the two acute care floors — will be announced sooner, rather than later by our provincial government.”