More support required

Campaign for more beds at VJH needs community backing

Turnout at Monday’s rally at Vernon Jubilee Hospital was likely a disappointment for the organizers.

After all, there had been anticipation of lots of people given that overcrowding continues to plague the hospital, forcing patients into hallways and surgeries to be cancelled. But ultimately, only about 150 people showed up, even less than a similar event held on Canada Day.

It was suggested that Labour Day was poor scheduling because families were preparing for back-to-school and residents were enjoying one final day of summer before the regular grind resumes.

But while that may be the case for some, we can also make all of the excuses in the world. The reality is that if an issue is truly important for people, they will get there no matter what else is going on. Obviously some folks don’t see the lack of acute care beds as a priority because they or a loved one hasn’t been shoved into a hall. Others insist residential care is the solution.

Apathy also reigns as some people have lost faith in the provincial government to actually listen to them and do the right thing.

The message for broad-based public involvement dominated Monday’s rally.

“The word has to get out to the rest of the population on the need for this facility,” Coldstream Mayor Jim Garlick told the crowd.

“The provincial government has said they want to hear from the people. We need to pull together as a region to get this done.”

But it appears that even community leaders aren’t pulling that hard.

Besides Garlick, the only other local politicians present were Wayne Lippert and Bob Spiers from Vernon, Maria Besso and Gyula Kiss from Coldstream, Enderby’s Beryl Ludwig and Perry Wainwright from the Vernon School District.

That means most of Vernon, Enderby and Coldstream councils were missing and there was absolutely no representation from Armstrong, Spallumcheen, Lumby or the Regional District of North Okanagan. All of these jurisdictions are served by VJH and yet they weren’t there to lend their voice to an issue that impacts their residents.

Now we should remember that the campaign for more beds has been led by physicians and nurses.

Yet on Monday, I could only spot three doctors at the rally. Some of them may have been on duty and unavailable to attend but most were likely enjoying a day off.

The B.C. Nurses Union was quick to roll its bus and placards into Falkland for a rally a few weeks ago but where were they in Vernon Monday?

There has been significant pressure on MLAs Eric Foster and George Abbott to challenge their government over health care funding.

But our MLAs could look at the lack of bodies at the rally and question why they should stick their political necks out when the doctors and nurses who would benefit from new beds can’t be bothered to show up for an hour-long protest.

If the campaign to end overcrowding is to be successful, everyone in the North Okanagan must come together and demand immediate action.

However, until civic leaders, doctors and nurses actually walk the talk and come out in significant numbers, most residents of the region will stay at home. And without that public groundswell, Victoria will not free up any cash and code purple will be an ongoing problem.


– Richard Rolke is the senior reporter at The Morning Star. He writes a weekly column titled Beyond the Headlines for the newspaper.