Waters: Kelowna a big beneficiary of healthcare spending in B.C.

Local healthcare officials deserve much of the credit for the mountain of money spend to improve facilities here in recent years.

When the last brick is laid, the finishing touch is applied and the doors swing open on the Interior Heart and Surgical Centre at Kelowna General Hospital in 2015, the hospital will have suffered through seven straight years of construction.

But when you have been the recipient of the better part of nearly $1 billion in government spending to expand, improve and add services, can you call it suffering?

The work done at KGH since 2008—and for that matter in the 10 years before that as well—has put the hospital on the provincial map when it comes to health care. Now the top tertiary care facility in the Interior, it includes most of the services available in the Lower Mainland and the Victoria.

Since the mid-1990s it has had a cancer clinic, medical school, and new laboratory and clinical support buildings added, as well as a six-storey tower, expanded departments and hospital infrastructure. Now it’s getting a state-of-the art heart centre, making it just the fifth facility in the province where full heart surgery will be offered.

While its critics can fault the Liberal government for its management of the province over the last 11 years, it is hard to make that case when taking about health care spending here.

Recently, work started on the painstaking demolishing of the oldest part of KGH, the Pandosy Building, to make room for the heart centre.

Thanks to sturdy construction, as well as the fact it is attached to a hospital that does not have the luxury of closing down during the demolition, the Pandosy Building has to be nibbled away at piece by piece. No imploding, no explosions.

The IHSC, originally slated to cost more than $400 million and be finished in 2017, is now to be delivered 18 months early and at a cost of $364 million, all thanks to some creative design work.

Putting aside the province’ puzzling move not to accept millions of free money from the regional hospital district to build a third floor, the new two-storey building will help push KGH to a level on par with the major hospitals in the Lower Mainland.

But while credit will likely be taken by the politicians—especially as a provincial election nears—the real credit should go to the men and women who work at, and in some cases have now retired from, KGH.

Not only are they the ones who came up with the plans, made the case to government, guided the work and continue to do their “other” jobs at KGH, they are the ones who have worked through the construction knowing their vision for the future will make this community better.

For many of us three years may seem like a long time. But for KGH, after four years of construction another three is just a blip on the radar screen. Truth be told, plans are already being drawn up for the future needs of the hospital.

Like building roads, as soon as one is finished, work on the next one starts. It’s how we get from here to there—even in health care.

Alistair Waters is the assistant editor of the Capital News.

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