Recent History – 2003
August 15, 2003–by Jamie Dirom, Daily News Staff
More than 200 people converged on Peace River Haven Thursday afternoon with a clear message for the province and the Northern Health Authority: don’t close this facility. People at the protest expressed concern about the health authority’s plans for the facility’s future.
It was also something of a coming out for the Peace River Haven Gatekeepers, a group created to lobby for the Haven. Gatekeepers volunteer Paul DeCosta said local people need to speak up if they want to preserve local facilities.
“They think that we don’t have any clout,” DeCosta said of health officials. “We’re not excited about some of the decision making that’s going on.
“We need to raise the bar – they need to know we’re serious,” he said. “These people are not elected. They’re appointed. I thought they were put in place to serve us, but you know what? Apparently I was wrong,” DeCosta said.
Peace River South MLA Blair Lekstrom said the Haven is not suited for complex care – the highest-level classification of seniors’ care – but he wants the facility to remain open in some capacity.
“It’s not an issue that I take lightly,” Lekstrom said. “One day I’ll be in one of these facilities.”
Lekstrom said that no long-term resident at Peace River Haven will be moved if there is no place for them. Peace River Haven is currently under review. The facility will notcontinue to be used in its current capacity, and the review will determine whether the Haven continues to be used and in what capacity.
Several people at the gathering Thursday suggested the facility could be used as an assisted living facility. Assisted living is the same level of care as offered at Southview Manor.
“Maybe there’s a possibility that we could look at Peace River Haven as an assisted living model.,” said Lekstrom.
Lekstrom said he expects the Haven will be phased out in 18 to 24 months. Current residents will be shifted to facilities such as Pouce Coupe Care Home and Rotary Manor as beds become available.
“Not one senior or resident will be forced to leave without another door being opened,” Lekstrom said.
That commitment applies to all long-term patients at the Haven – it does not include seniors who have been admitted for short-term respite care, as is the case for two seniors, he added, acknowledging the cases of two local families who are fighting to keep their parents in the Haven after they were admitted for respite care. One member of the crowd implored Lekstrom to do everything he can to work for the Haven’s future.
“You have to fight to keep this facility open, no matter what kind of care is going to be provided,” she said. “We’re not going to be able to replace this facility.”
Replied Lekstrom: “I hope I made that very clear – that’s exactly what we’re doing. “You have my 100 per cent commitment – I will do whatever it takes to meet the quality of care for seniors who live in Peace River South.”
Lekstrom said he believes the needs of area seniors will be met, but that the Northern Health Authority has dropped the ball in communicating its plans to local residents.
“I’m as frustrated as you are. I think that’s the key to why we’re here today – it’s poor communication from day one,” Lekstrom said.
In a phone interview Friday, health authority communications director Mark Karjaluoto said the health authority is always available to discuss area residents’ concerns.
“We’re always available and open to speak to people about what is developing,” said Karjaluoto.
He said he couldn’t comment on the reasons behind the meeting, but he understood why people would be concerned.
“I understand there would be concern about change,” Karjaluoto said. Several people at the meeting had documents detailing staff reductions at the Haven. According to the memo, the first floor wing of the Haven is expected to close by Oct. 15. That will mean a reduction of 3.6 full-time equivalent staff at the facility.
Karjaluoto said while he had not seen the memo and could not comment on it in particular, when the health authority began phasing out the Haven as an intermediate care facility earlier this year, it notified staff that there may be reductions as that happened.
He said that the future of the facility has not been determined – the health authority is committed to the review process and to “do things right.”
This article is taken from the Peace River Block Daily News, Dawson Creek, with the permission of the publisher. The Daily News retains all rights relating to this material. The information in this article is intended solely for research or general interest purposes.