Everyone in Vernon and the surrounding area is rightly worried about the availability of acute care beds at our hospital.
First, let us all recognize that the issue is not so much that there are not enough acute care beds, but more that these beds continue to be occupied by less critical cases (chronic care) who need long term care that is not available in the community, or whose family, nursing home, etc. is either unable or unwilling to provide this care. This is a tough issue that does not generate sexy news headlines and seems to be ignored in our debate.
Second, we need to look at our funding priorities around Vernon. We are sending our politicians mixed messages about where to spend money. It seemed to be very easy to get $5M to upgrade the left turns at highways 6 and 97, an intersection that is really only congested for about 45 minutes each morning and evening. The twinning of Highway 97 around Winfield must be costing us untold millions as a province and yet this section of road is rarely jammed up. Even in the peak of a summer long weekend it moves at 60 kilometres an hour.
Is an additional 20 kilometres an hour worth more than more emergency beds? I guess we think so, until you need a bed. As a community we keep telling our politicians we do not want to spend a single cent more in taxes. We keep pressing our politicians for road upgrades as the No. 1 priority. And we have just voted down the HST, which will reduce provincial government revenues in the long term. If the government takes in less taxes, we get fewer services in return.
Given that we, the electorate, continue to behave in this manner, why is anyone surprised that there are not enough beds in the hospital? The politicians are simply doing what we’ve rewarded them to do.