Penticton hospital promise could be a hollow commitment

When it comes to the PRH expansion, it’s pretty clear that politics plays a big part.

It’s a little hard to take Premier Christy Clark seriously when she says the province is committed to building a new tower to upgrade the Penticton Regional Hospital.

It’s also a bit hard to accept Mayor Dan Ashton — who will be the Penticton Liberal candidate when the writ is dropped next month — when he asserts that Clark’s announcement this week was not politically motivated.

Health shouldn’t be about politics, Ashton said. On that, at least, it’s easy to agree with our potential MLA.

However, when it comes to the PRH expansion, it’s pretty clear that politics plays a big part. The project has been “at the top of the list” for years.

But political wrangling on the part of Kamloops and Vernon health proponents — a Vernon group even hired a political lobbyist — saw their projects jump to the head of the line.

Now Clark says its Penticton’s turn, after public outcry and a “loud and proud” campaign  on the part of Penticton doctors has given the B.C. Liberals a bit of a black eye.

Clark has even found $2 million to put towards a business case to show the actual need for an expansion.

It’s something of a hollow commitment, coming from a government that is by no means certain of re-election. And the need is obvious; PRH is more than half a century old, and suffers from chronic overcrowding as well as lack of facilities for increasingly modernized medical equipment.

It’s too close to the election for Clark to make any sort of authentic commitment to PRH. The Penticton Medical Society has promised to continue keeping the need for the hospital expansion in the public eye until they see shovels in the ground.

The rest of Penticton needs to do likewise, and support and encourage their efforts.