Recent History – 2003
September 24, 2003, By Gary Rusak, Daily News Staff
Frustration and anger pervaded the Elks Lodge Tuesday night at a meeting of the Peace River Haven Gatekeepers to discuss the future of seniors’ care in Dawson Creek.
“We have to keep putting the pressure on,” Gatekeeper member Paul DeCosta told the standing-room-only crowd. “It’s the only way we are going to make change.”
Tension is high because of the uncertainty surrounding the Peace River Haven long-term care facility. The Haven is being phased out as a complex care facility, and the health authority is reviewing it to determine other potential uses for the building. The home currently has 13 empty beds and the Northern Health Authority has a target date of Oct. 15 to reach its goal of 14 empty beds. The facility will also be making layoffs as its capacity decreases. This downsizing has left many citizens wondering what facilities remain for seniors.
“We feel there is not sufficient supportive living accommodation for people in the community now,” said Muriel Stanley of the Gatekeepers. “People have to take a second look to make sure those who need care are cared for.”
When the floor was opened up for general comments, the tone became accusatory. “Every day people in this community people need help,” said Lou Pugh during the audience question period. “We have to go into our MLA and say ‘no more you jokers!'”
The emotional tenor of the evening continued with a fiery speech from Jaana Grant, the regional VP of the local Health Employees Union.
“It’s time we start the war,” she said. “I ask the people in this room to get together and hold this government accountable!” The theme of provincial government indifference was echoed by Bev Dunsmore, who addressed the crowd with regard to her mother-in-law who received a bill for $7,007.60 from the Peace River Haven for overstaying her welcome after being admitted to the facility for respite care. Dunsmore has been instrumental in bringing the issue of seniors’ care to the forefront.
“It has taken a lot of energy and I’m afraid we are not getting anywhere,” she said. “It’s like trying to fight a ghost”.
Exacerbating the issue is the lack of communication between the NHA and citizens in region. Trying to remedy this perception was outgoing chief operating officer for Northeast Health Services Andrew Neuner and Ruby Johnson, the assistant regional director who both spoke on behalf of the NHA.
“The majority of the province made a decision that we have to spend less on health care,” Neuner said, addressing the crowd. “I was handed an envelope that said I had to find five to eight million dollars. So (the NHA) has to weigh what you are saying with what other communities are saying. I know it is a very emotional issue but at the end of the day we have a mandate the comes right from the provincial government.”
Johnson stressed that no one was going be thrown on to the streets. “Nothing is going to happen overnight,” she said. “People would not be forced to leave. We have a commitment that we will care for people as long as possible.”
The issue is far from resolved with further meetings and fundraisers by the Gatekeepers expected in the coming weeks. “I’m tired,” said Dunsmore, “but I am not giving up the fight.”