Ribbon cutting

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and other dignitaries gathered for the ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday morning at South Okanagan General Hospital in Oliver.

OLIVER — Health care in the region has taken another step forward with the opening of South Okanagan General Hospital’s newly renovated emergency department.

Dignitaries gathered at the hospital Friday to celebrate the completion of the renovations, with the department expected to open and be fully operational Tuesday.

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said the enhancements to the emergency ward — including a new waiting and triage area, a quiet room for families, a separate emergency department entrance, relocation of admitting and administration services, and exterior signage with improved wayfinding — “allows us into the future.”

“I was here in the fall of 2017 when this addition was an idea,” Dix said. “I think we have in this community great doctors, great nurses and great health-care workers. And they deserve great facilities to work in.”

The original $970,000 project budget, split 60-40 by the B.C. government and the Okanagan Similkameen Regional Hospital District, was increased by another $280,000 from the South Okanagan Similkameen Medical Foundation to expand the scope of the project to include a new nursing station and private area for doctors to consult with specialists.

“The effort and the commitment of people here in the community to raise money for this and for other projects for health care is extraordinary. It reflects a deep community commitment to public health care,” said Dix.

“We’ve outgrown our previous emergency department,” said Carl Meadows, Interior Health’s executive director of clinical operations for the South Okanagan.

He recalled the department used to be “very cramped (and) crowded (with) not a lot of privacy for our patients, staff and physicians.”