Letnick: Personal connection to health care runs deep for local MLA

Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick says this are has done well in terms of health care funding.

Health care is extremely important to B.C. families.

It has an impact on each and every one of us.

This is why I am currently pursuing a PhD in Health Economics, and it’s why Central Okanagan MLAs Ben Stewart, Steve Thomson and I are such strong supporters of health care in our region.

Most of you are already familiar with the Interior Heart and Surgical Centre project, a five-phase, $367 million endeavor at Kelowna General Hospital (KGH).

While the facility is already in operation, there is still a lot of work to be done, making this a good opportunity for a progress report.

On Dec.3, 2012, the very first cardiac surgery was performed at KGH.

This successful procedure was a historic moment for our community, as it was the first cardiac surgery in B.C. to take place outside of Victoria or the Lower Mainland.

The procedure was the first of many that will occur in Interior Health.

Since this first surgery last month, the total number of patients to receive a successful cardiac procedure at KGH climbed to 36 on Jan. 3.

Once the project is completed, there will be approximately 600 cardiac surgeries each year at KGH. The cardiac surgery program is all about expanding access to cardiac surgery for Okanagan residents.

This is great for not only the patients, but also their families, by allowing patients to stay closer to home and their loved ones.

It will increase the love and support for patients while reducing stress and costs associated with traveling to Victoria or the Lower Mainland.

The Interior Heart and Surgical Centre project is a five-phase effort. In November 2009, the Percutaneous Coronary Intervention (PCI) program came into service.

Next, the East Pandosy Clinical Support Building opened in May 2012, making room for our new Interior Heart and Surgical Centre building, which began in the fall of 2012 and will open in 2015.

As mentioned above, the open heart surgery program came into operation in renovated operating rooms in the Strathcona Building on Dec.3 of last year.

This $367 million project was only possible thanks to dedicated efforts and close collaboration between community leaders, the provincial government, and Interior Health.

This project is very near and dear to my heart, as I know that it truly will help people in our community.

The fact that this project comes on the heels of the successful Centennial Tower, which was completed on time and on budget, is icing on the cake. Or, perhaps in the interest of healthy hearts, a light dressing on the salad.

Norm Letnick is the Liberal MLA for Kelowna-Lake Country and the B.C. Minister of Agriculture