Hospital a benefit to region
Provincial foot-dragging on funding for overdue expansion of Penticton Regional Hospital must end. The picture is clear: Interior Health lists PRH as a top priority yet lower priorities get built. Annual per-capita hospital funding in Penticton and area is $22 compared with $123 in Kelowna. Here, hospital closets and laundry areas become offices and treatment rooms. The latest excuse is that a business plan isn’t completed.
That’s a stunning contrast with the Oliver prison. The Dec. 12, 2012 Justice Ministry press release indicated that business case planning was done after the February 2012 announcement, not before ($2.7 million of public funding was subsequently committed to complete the prison’s business plan). No such luck for the PRH, however.
Corrections B.C. insisted that locating a prison to house over 20 per cent of their inmates in a region with 1.4 per cent of B.C.’s population fit their “optimization model”. What? A November 2011 Treasury Board document indicates that the decision to proceed here was made because “local politicians” (not citizens) petitioned for it, and no further public consultation would be needed in the RDOS, unlike in larger urban areas.
The disproportionate prison-related demands on regional health care, policing and social services appear not to have been considered. Benefit-cost and risk assessments were conspicuously absent from the regional sales pitch.
Mysteriously, studies supporting the Dec. 12 claim of 1,000 jobs, inferring they will be local, are being withheld, as are analyses of post-construction benefits to the RDOS. Why is the Justice Ministry concealing how many of those “person–years” jobs will actually be local?
The prison was sold as a tool of economic development despite solid U.S. evidence that prisons are a growth deterrent in low-population areas like the RDOS. Surprisingly, the RDOS is not playing the economic development card for PRH when good hospitals are a known factor in attracting, retaining and training skilled medical personnel. Their presence attracts entrepreneurs, jobs and new residents.
Citizens consider PRH their top priority. It’s time to end the B.C. government’s manipulation of regional priorities. Stop treating RDOS as a safe, easy harbour for a prison; and end secrecy and foot-dragging in making its impact studies available.
In summary, stop the prison project and relocate it to a larger urban area with greater capacity to absorb its expected adverse social and economic impacts. Instead, build the PRH tower which will deliver both health and economic benefits in this region.