BEYOND THE HEADLINES: Purple power

They wanted to draw attention to code purple conditions at Vernon Jubilee Hospital, but nurses were left seeing red.

And what particularly upset some of them was a delivery van sitting where they had wanted to park their campaign bus during a half-hour rally at the hospital Friday.

“We were told we can’t park there because of traffic,” said a representative from the B.C. Nurses Union.

The bottom line: the nurses were insinuating that the Interior Health Authority wasn’t taking the union’s concerns seriously and didn’t want any visible reminders of the virtually steady congestion that has forced patients into halls and surgeries to be cancelled.

The nurses are also now waiting to see how long it takes before a giant purple ribbon disappears from a tree in front of VJH.

It apparently took considerable convincing before IHA officials approved the ribbon, and Christine Sorensen, BCNU regional chairperson, is hoping administration won’t rip it down.

“It would concern me that they aren’t seeing the level of safe patient care with the same eyes as staff,” she said.

Knowing some of the VJH management first hand, I would say that comment is unfair. Those on the ground have tried to create efficiencies along with physicians and nurses, and they don’t hide the fact that conditions aren’t ideal.

But, unfortunately, they are just cogs in an endlessly bureaucratic process that first begins in Kelowna at IHA’s head office and then ends in Victoria where the health minister and the bean counters decide what gets funding and what doesn’t.

And the higher up you go in the system, the more removed the decision-makers are from what’s happening on the ground.

They may have never been to Vernon, let alone had to sit on a commode in a hallway, with only a thin curtain separating them from the rest of the world. Imagine waiting for surgery for months and having it cancelled at the last minute.

It’s highly unlikely Health Minister Mike de Jong would tolerate such conditions for his family, but the government’s lack of action suggests it’s OK for North Okanagan residents.

It is time for de Jong to hear first-hand of the often painful and troubling circumstances that have faced patients and health care providers.

If you are interested in contacting him, here are his particulars:

Michael de Jong

Minister of Health

Room 337, Parliament Buildings

Victoria, B.C.,   V8V 1X4

E-mail: hlth.minister@gov.bc.ca

While you’re at it, drop a line to Vernon-Monashee MLA Eric Foster:

3209 31st Avenue

Vernon, B.C., V1T 2H2

Phone: 250-503-3600

Email: eric.foster.mla@leg.bc.ca

Construction crews are still on duty at VJH and now is the time to have them develop the two shelled-in floors into acute care wards. Once patients are in the tower, any work will become challenging, particularly because the intensive care unit is just one floor below,

Yes a financial commitment of $20 million is needed for construction and $20 million a year for operations, but there are some things more important than cash.

– Richard Rolke is a reporter at The Morning Star. He writes a weekly column in the newspaper.