B.C.'s Opposition critic for health called the premier's visit to Penticton Regional Hospital on Friday political manoeuvring by a party in peril.
Christy Clark visited PRH two days after doctors in Penticton held a public rally about the need for
expansion at the hospital.
"I think the premier is trying to do damage control," said Mike Farnworth. "She's been in office now almost two years, and so to suddenly say, 'Oh, we're going to kick down the barriers.' Well, where have you been for the last two years?"
Farnworth, the MLA for Port Coquitlam, noted the $300-million ambulatory-care tower proposed for the 62-year-old hospital is the top priority in the Interior Health region.
"The fact that it's taken a meeting like this and we're coming up to an election in about 12 weeks, that just has damage control written all over it," said Farnworth, who called the hospital visit "a desperate move" by the premier.
During her visit, Clark said the hospital project stalled between the concept and business stages and agreed it needs to be moved higher on the government's agenda. However, she said a business case must be completed before funding could be identified.
Clark insisted any decision would be based on need and not on political posturing.
The government's share of funding for the project amounts to about $160 million, which Farnworth agreed is a large sum.
"I think the real challenge for the premier and this government is they've been running around the province promising capital projects - health capital projects - in communities all over the place," he said. "I think what needs to happen is there needs to be a proper capital plan where decisions are made based on the need of priority as opposed to politics."
The Liberals will present their budget Tuesday, and a provincial election is scheduled for May.
Given the current state of B.C.'s economy, Farnworth isn't putting much faith in what Tuesday's budget could offer for health care in general and the hospital expansion for Penticton in particular.
"I've heard rumours that health authorities can expect a very low increase," he said. "I just don't know. We're going to be looking very closely at what the health budget is and see whether it's a realistic increase compared to other years."
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