EDITORIAL: Minister must take action

Health Minister Michael de Jong's message hollow

The message from Health Minister Michael de Jong hasn’t changed since he toured Vernon Jubilee Hospital in the spring.

He insists that he is aware of the chronic overcrowding that’s forcing patients into hallways or any other space that may be free. He says he is aware of the situation that forces surgeries to be cancelled on an ongoing basis.

Most of all, de Jong says he sympathizes with the plight of residents and health care professionals.

“The number one priority is that patients in Vernon and the surrounding area receive the highest quality care possible. We understand there are pressures,” he said Wednesday.

We have to take de Jong at his word, but if he is aware of what’s going on in the North Okanagan, why hasn’t something been done?

Capacity issues are nothing new. It’s taken years to get to the point where the 165 patients on average daily are outstripping the 148 acute care beds. De Jong says there is a need to open more residential care beds as a way of getting people out of the hospital, but that is  a long-term solution.

Obviously completing the two shelled-in floors in the patient care tower isn’t cheap. Construction runs at $10 million per floor and then there’s $10 million annually for operations.

And yes the provincial government, along with its municipal partners, pumped $180 million into the new tower. But using that as an excuse for inaction, is tiresome. If more needs to be done to provide quality care, just bite the bullet and do it.

Until an announcement is made on acute care beds, de Jong’s comments ring hollow.

– Vernon Morning Star