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Marking a new beginning in Penticton

Marking a new beginning in Penticton

One year ago on April 29, Maureen Thomson was sitting at a desk inside the new David E. Kampe Tower at Penticton Regional Hospital (PRH), looking over a set of computer screens, each one flashing patient names and locations.

At the time, Maureen was the health services director and responsible for moving some 65 patients from their hospital rooms to new single-patient accommodations inside the David E. Kampe Tower. The tower, a six-storey addition to PRH that also included a parkade, was ready to open its doors to the public.

Construction had begun in 2016, while planning had taken place for many years prior. It was the culmination of a four-month period known as ‘operational commissioning’,  the period after construction completed and Interior Health had moved in equipment, trained staff, and ultimately moved patients from the older building into the new tower. Years of hard work were coming together in one emotional day.

One year later

Fast forward a year.

The new building is all that was expected, and maybe more. Since the earliest days of planning, it was felt the state-of-the-art tower could change the way health care was delivered at PRH, impacting patients not only in Penticton but right across the region.

According to Carl Meadows, a senior leader in acute and community care in the South Okanagan, it has done just that. “The tower has had a huge impact on patient care for residents of the South Okanagan and Similkameen. There is so much more space right from the main entrance to the clinics and into the single-patient rooms. We are thrilled to have this building as a jewel of health care. It really allows our staff and physicians to thrive and provide exemplary care for patients. It’s a great healing environment for patients, something David Kampe himself was extremely proud of.”

In fact, Mr. Kampe, the philanthropist who donated millions of dollars towards the tower which bears his name, often told Carl that he wanted the hospital to be like a five-star hotel.

The opening ceremony of the new tower included David Kampe and other key members of the PRH project including Dr. Brad Raison, Maureen Thompson and Carl Meadows

When he passed away shortly after the tower opened, the hospital received his Order of B.C. which honoured Mr. Kampe for a lifetime of charitable work. The Order now hangs in the hospital, alongside a stunning array of artwork and sculptures.

And it’s not only the art that adorns seemingly every hallway that makes it unique: Aboriginal signage outside the hospital’s main entrance, at patient registration, and elsewhere, welcomes visitors and patients in the traditional Syilx language of the Penticton Indian Band, honouring the knowledge keepers of the land.

“We are just so proud of this facility,” says Carl. “So many people played a key role. It was an immense amount of work and a credit to our staff and physicians that we kept PRH operating the whole time and kept putting patient care first. This is a building that matches the skill and compassion of our staff and physicians.”

Dr. Brad Raison was the Chief of Staff at PRH during the planning, construction and opening of the David E. Kampe Tower. He says the tower has brought positive change but stressed there is more work to be done. “We have seen many positive changes at PRH such as nuclear medicine, a permanent MRI, and single patient rooms,” says Brad. “This is merely the beginning. Medicine is constantly changing and with it the need for more and new tools to support these changes. We must continue to build on what we have started. Today’s dreams can be tomorrow’s reality.”

Through the eyes of a patient

When Graham Tungate entered the doors of the David E. Kampe Tower earlier this year to prepare for surgery, the 77-years-young Penticton native was feeling some of the anxiety that goes with any impending procedure. However, the atmosphere in the Kampe Tower put him at ease. “In spite of the continual activity, what is noticeable is the quiet,” says Graham. “The design has allowed an ambiance of peace, quiet and comfort to develop.”

Graham Tungate

The new coffee shop and the heritage photographs on display also helped to take his mind of the impending procedure.

Beyond the calm and welcoming atmosphere, something else stood out for Graham. “I have to mention something very important that directly affected me as a patient: The culture of the medical staff. It is a team culture and like all good, successful teams, it generates its own energy, which is greater than the sum total of the parts,” says Graham. “The medical staff have high standards, they have pride in their work, but more important than that, they care. They have kindness and compassion. Each time that I leave the tower I feel proud that, as Canadians, in our quiet, modest way, we got it right.”


In the end

The opening of the David E. Kampe Tower marked a new beginning for Penticton Regional Hospital. The discussion began long ago among local decision makers to push for a new hospital in Penticton. Years of planning, detailed design work and collaboration occurred between PRH staff and physicians; Interior Health Capital Planning; the Ministry of Health; funding partners like the SOS Medical Foundation and the Okanagan Similkameen Regional Hospital District; stakeholders including the Penticton Indian Band; and contractor EllisDon Infrastructure.

Construction work is expected to conclude in 2022 with a modernized and much larger Emergency Department among the changes.

For Maureen Thomson, who has since retired, it was all about the team. She says everyone involved deserves part of the credit. “This was one of the most remarkable team-based initiatives that you could possibly have,” she says. “Our staff and physicians put their heart and souls into the work and it’s completely evident in the results of the tower.”

On opening day, April 29, 2019, as patients were expertly relocated and an army of volunteers moved hospital beds, cleaned equipment and helped patients, Maureen sat back in awe of what had been achieved. “You don’t get many times in your career that you have the joy of being associated with such a remarkable process,” she says.