Interior Heart & Surgical Centre opens Monday

The Okanagan Valley health care system has benefited from provincial government funding to help fund major capital renovations projects.

The opening of the new Interior Heart and Surgical Centre at Kelowna General Hospital on Monday will mark the end of a journey for Norma Malanowich.

In her role as chief project officer and corporate director of capital planning for Interior Health, Malanowich has been involved in the development of the new surgery centre from initial concept to the completed facility.

Malanowich’s role has been to work with  corporate partner Plenary Health group which includes PCL Construction, Westcoast Inc. and Johnson Controls,  throughout he contract procurements, design and construction of this project.

“There is a bricks and mortar component to this but there is also dealing with the technology and equipment required for the facility, and the overall readiness to be ready for our opening,” Malanowich said. “So it will be an exciting day for us come Sept. 28. From the capital project point of view, we hand over our responsibility going forward and move on to the next project.”

That project will be the construction of a new tower and upgrade of the emergency department at Penticton’s hospital.

With all the changes that have occurred with new facility additions to KGH of late, Malanowich says there is still more work to be done on the hospital upgrade but those won’t be quite as visible to the public.

“There will be a second floor added to the Strathcona Building on the hospital site which will allow for additional cardiac and other patient care beds along with a hospital care burn unit,” she said.

Malanowich said the Okanagan Valley health care system has benefited from provincial government funding to help fund major capital renovations projects at the Kelowna, Penticton and Vernon hospitals.

“That is a really positive thing for the whole valley, and these capital projects are also great for job creation. There are a lot of local trades and workers involved in these projects and that is great for our local economy,” she said.

Beyond the building, Malanowich said an overriding philosophy surrounding the development of the Interior Heart and Surgical Centre has been patient care.

“We have had a taste of that with how the Centennial Tower was designed, which we have heard a lot of positive feedback about from staff, patients and their families,” she said. “Through the development and construction of projects on this scale there are always trade-offs being made, but at the end of the day the goal was for the surgical centre to have a superior use of space and creation of a positive environment to be a patient.”

She says surgery can be a scary and stressful experience for everyone, so the hope is the new centre will help put some of that concern at ease in the design of the building, right down to the choice of interior paint colours, and the access to state-of-the-art technology and new surgical techniques.

“With this surgical centre, KGH now becomes one of the leading hospitals in western Canada. Our hope is it will put KGH in a position going forward to retain quality staff and help recruit more medical specialists to come here.”

She added with all the changes to KGH, one of the goals was to make it fundamentally simpler for people to navigate their way around the hospital and find the services they need.

“It’s simpler, less convoluted now than it has been which I think will be a major improvement.”

Malanowich says talking about those realities today was a long-term dream going as far back as the late 1980s.

“Having a cardiac centre here has a long history, as the planning  to reach this point has gone through many evolutions and numerous steps,” said Malanowich, noting that evolution from a set business plan through construction started in earnest back in 2009.

“When you reflect on those years, one thing that was apparent to me throughout was how committed the medical community and hospital supporters were for this to happen, the immense sense of pride that people have in their hospital.”

She said that pride was evident by the fundraising initiatives launched by the Kelowna General Hospital Foundation to raise money for the purchase of new equipment in the surgical centre, a campaign that came in at $12,140,503.

“To make projects like this become a reality is really a partnership, between government, regional hospital districts, private partners and the community. You need all three of those elements in place,” she said.