The emergency department at the South Okanagan General Hospital in Oliver could be getting a facelift.
A letter from President and CEO of the Interior Health Authority (IH), Chris Mazurkewich, presented during Monday’s Town of Oliver council meeting, says the upgrades have been identified as a “high priority.”
The renovations include the development of a new waiting and triage area, a separate public emergency department entrance and relocation of admitting services.
The project is included in IH’s capital budget for 2018/19, which was approved by the IH board in December.
Mazurkewich says in the letter that the health authority is “confident it will result in improved healthcare delivery to the residents of Oliver and surrounding area.”
Lorna Woodward doesn’t have a family doctor in town and relies on the hospital for her basic medical needs.
“We have no walk-in clinics here and a bad shortage of doctors so any upgrades that we get I’m sure would be useful,” she said on Thursday.
Many residents who spoke to Global News said that they are relieved because they’re worried about the hospital’s future.
READ MORE: Staffing shortages plague Oliver Hospital ER
“This would give a collective sigh of relief to those living in the south Okanagan that this amazing little gem, our oasis in the desert, is not going to be shut down once the towers in Penticton open up,” says Marilyn Mulldoon with the grassroots group ‘Residents for Healthcare.’
Staff shortages have forced the temporary closure of the emergency department in the past.
The hospital’s former chief of staff, Dr. Peter Entwistle, also resigned last March over concerns about the number of hospital beds available.
He later ran unsuccessfully as an independent in last May’s provincial election.
“I think our health services are underfunded and I think people need to speak out,” he told Global News at the time.
Town of Oliver Councillor Petra Veintimilla hopes rural healthcare will be improved under the new NDP government.
“We’re also very optimistic that they’re going to go beyond that and work on a sustainable plan for keeping our ER open,” she said.
The capital funding request for the renovation has been made to the Okanagan Similkameen Hospital District.
The Hospital District, which is part of the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen, funds a 40 per cent share of funding for various equipment and capital improvement projects as defined by the Ministry of Health.
Its next meeting is on February 15.
IH says the project will begin this year once funding is secured.