Blog | November 13, 2013

By Patricia Riley, Sundre RoundupSundre was one of 12 stops in Alberta for a seniors’ care tour put on by advocacy organizations, which came through town last week.Officials of Public Interest Alberta, Friends of Medicare and the Parkland Institute hosted the tour and discussed with Sundreites the issues with seniors’ care policies in Alberta.“This is the smallest community that we’re coming to. But we’ve known for a long time – we’ve got so many forms sent in to our office – that there is a big concern here,” said Bill Moore-Kilgannon, executive director of Public Interest Alberta.The session was held at West Country Centre on Thursday, Nov. 7 and Moore-Kilgannon said Sundre Coun. Myron Thompson invited them to make Sundre a stop on the tour.The advocacy groups are calling on the government to focus on five goals. These include:• Create viable and responsive public home care• Strengthen the Nursing Home Act, don’t circumvent it• Build more long-term care facilities• Establish a Seniors Advocate as an Officer of the Legislature, and• Make seniors’ care facilities more democratic“The five points are exactly what many of us believe is needed. So when somebody proposes something that positive, then I think it’s necessary to spread the word and get more people involved,” said Thompson, noting that he was hoping for a better turnout.There were about 30 to 40 people present.“The goal is threefold. The first is just to educate people about what’s going on in our seniors’ care system. We encounter a lot of people that say ‘this is all news to me’,” said Moore-Kilgannon.“Until people actually see and understand and develop that analysis of what’s going on, nothing’s going to change.”Some of the destinations on the nearly two-month-long tour include Hinton, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, Calgary, Red Deer, Grande Prairie, St. Paul and Edmonton.“Secondly, we came here to hear from people in the Sundre area because we know that in smaller communities in particular, when systems fail, there’s no choice for people,” he said.“Hearing what’s going on around the province allows us, as advocates, when we sit down with the minister of health and the minister of seniors, to say ‘you may be saying that, but Fred Horne, this is what we’ve heard’.”Along their tour they are videotaping individuals’ stories to take back to government officials. He said it isn’t enough as advocacy organizations to stand up alone, but that they need local people to stand up too.“We live in a democracy and democracy isn’t just voting once every four years. It’s what happens between elections,” he said.“If people don’t understand what’s going on or are not speaking out, then nothing is going to change. It will only get worse. But if people are speaking out for their communities and their families, then change will happen.”During the session, 81-year-old Noel Somerville, chairperson of Public Interest Alberta’s seniors’ task force, discussed an apparent proposal from the government to get rid of the seniors’ drug plan.“I think that’s crazy,” said Somerville. “I think that’s a major issue that we need to tackle the government on.”He said government officials claimed they could save $180 million a year by getting rid of the seniors’ drug plan.He also talked about the issue of moving seniors away from their support systems because of a shortage of long-term care beds throughout the province.“The government thought it was actually doing something good because it was capping the distance on where seniors were moved,” he said, noting that the distance was 100 kilometres.“Why are we moving them at all? We’re having to move them because of the chronic shortage of seniors’ long-term care beds.”“We think that health care is a right and not a privilege,” he added.Moore-Kilgannon shared stories of people they have met throughout their careers. He said they are also advocating for family care councils.Sundre resident Brandon Zimmerman stood up and shared a personal story. Several years ago, he suffered from an accident while he was working and almost lost his legs. He was in the hospital for numerous months and he and his family became financially strapped. He expressed anger that the government would consider not providing seniors’ benefits.Thompson spoke as well, saying that he has friends who go south for the winters. They purchase prescription drugs and have dental work done in places like Mexico, because it saves them money.“This shouldn’t be happening,” he said. “Get in there and fight for what’s right. I just feel that we’re giving up on the fight. Damn it, I’m ready to fight and I’m going to fight for as long as I can talk, walk and breathe.”There was also discussion about 2013 provincial funding cuts causing a shortage of staff in seniors’ facilities. Moore-Kilgannon said it is possible that there are legal obligations regarding a fire plan in such facilities. If there are only one or two staff members at the facility in the middle of the night and there is a fire, they wouldn’t be able to evacuate the building as quickly, he said.Sandra Azocar, executive director for Friends of Medicare, said residents need to get behind the elected officials and stand up for what is right.“I think we need to get angry,” said Azocar.Read the article at the Sundre Round Up.