Regional district hospital board members will be asked to reconsider its decision to deny $ 1 million in retroactive funding to Penticton’s new Urgent and Primary Care Centre (UPCC), after directors balked at a late funding request when the facility had already opened.
Judy Sentes, chair of the Okanagan-Similkameen Regional Hospital Board (OSRHD), said she will bring the defeated resolution back to the board on May 6.
“The vote was extremely close, nine to 10, and it was defeated. In hindsight, I felt perhaps I had rushed them, and I felt concerned that they were forced to vote when they still had so many questions,” Sentes told Global News on Sunday.
On April 15, Interior Health asked the hospital board to fund 40 per cent of the project’s cost of $2.5 million, in the total amount of $1 million.
The funding request was made two weeks after the UPCC opened its doors on March 31.
“I can’t think of a government anywhere that could possibly go ahead and build things and just think you can automatically come with a handout after the fact,” said director Katie Robinson, also a Penticton city councillor.
Penticton mayor John Vassilaki, who is already embroiled in a dispute with BC Housing over the operation of an emergency shelter, blasted the province for a lack of transparency.
“The lack of responsibility on the part of senior government in this province, where we are supposed to be partners, I don’t know of any business where two partners don’t talk to each other,” Vassilaki said.
“In this case, the partnership is one person, and they dictate as to what’s going to happen. They come to us at the 12th hour.”
Interior Health representatives said it was regrettable they couldn’t come to the hospital board sooner but had to wait for the go-ahead from the ministry of health to approve and publicly announce the project.
“We aren’t running the timelines, the province runs the timelines, and so it is quite challenging at times for us,” said Carl Meadows, executive director of South Okanagan acute and community clinical operations.
When asked what Interior Health was going to do if funding was not approved, given the facility is already open and operational, Meadows joked “I am going to have a very big bake sale.”
The Okanagan-Similkameen Regional Hospital District has an ongoing relationship with Interior Health for the operation of hospital facilities and typically funds 40 per cent of capital projects, but the board ultimately denied the request after expressing frustration with the process.
The UPCC was opened to alleviate pressure on the Penticton Regional Hospital emergency department.
It will reduce wait times, increase access to primary care, reduce workload for IH staff and physicians, reduce congestion in the emergency department and improve patient flow, Interior Health said.
The hospital district plans to send a letter to the minister of health expressing their concern with the lack of transparency and openness with regard to the UPCC developed at 437 Martin Street in Penticton.