By Shannon Quesnel
About 150 demonstrators stood in bad weather today in support of a doctor-led plan to get a $300-million expansion for the Penticton Regional Hospital.
The demonstration was led by the Penticton Medical Society and its president Dr. David Paisley. The society and the South Okanagan Similkameen Medical Foundation want the province to prove the Penticton hospital is a number one priority and pay its share of a new patient care tower. Lower priority communities have already received their funding for expansions and new buildings. Penticton's health centre got nothing in the 2013 budget.
Today's rally had doctors, nurses, citizens and politicians standing on all sides of the Government Street and Carmi Avenue intersection.
Anna McIvor was standing in front of the First Baptist Church with her sign. She said people have to support the expansion.
“If you don't support things you can only blame yourself... when you are upset when you can't get a bed,” McIvor said. She has never been a Penticton hospital patient but has a daughter who works there.
Bill Lee had both knees replaced by Penticton physicians and has no complaints about the service.
“It's just getting in. The wait times are unbelievable.”
Lee said the hospital is outdated and was built for half of Penticton's current population.
“They cut down hospitals in Summerland, Oliver and Princeton and we are getting influx from there. The hospital can't handle it.”
Pierre Drapeau said this new expansion is desperately needed.
“There is no room in the hospital for doctors to operate (properly),” he said. “I've been a patient here many times. I have to wait a long time. I had to stand in line because there was no room available."
In February, the medical society held a huge 800-person rally at the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre. This was days before the 2013 provincial budget details were announced. Doctors were looking for community support in getting the government's attention. They asked for the same support today.
Colleen Pennington said about 1,500 signed letters of support have been collected by the hospital foundation since the first rally and forwarded to the province. Pennington is the economic development officer at the city which has collected 600 letters of its own. Another 300 letters were signed at the recent health fair.
“And people have been telling me they've been sending emails and letters on their own. We've had a really strong community response from Penticton and from surrounding areas.”
She said the province has not called back to complain about the snail mail and email traffic.
“We are hopeful to get the call saying they are going to start to give us the money to move this project forward.”
After 30 minutes of waving signs with bare hands the crowd gathered around Paisley who used a microphone to tell everyone thousands of letters have been collected and sent to the Ministry of Health.
“We need to tell the people in power we need our tower.”
He said this rally and the one before it are necessary.
“We decided it was better to light a candle than complain in the dark.”
Dr. Sarah Lynn Broder criticized the province's premier.
“Christy Clark says she will be supporting worthy projects,” Broder shouted. “Our project is worthy.”
This region needs new facilities she said.
“We are functioning in a hospital that was built in 1951 for a population of 10,000. We are now 90,000 people.
“This is our future of health care and we need to stand tall. I will no longer stand in silence and wait for that money. I'm looking to you guys to scream and yell and say this is what we need.”
To contact a reporter for this story, email Shannon Quesnel at email@example.com or call 250-488-3065.