Wawota tries to save long-term care beds

Aug. 15, 2011 — The World Spectator

It’s been more than a year since five long-term care beds in Wawota were closed, and four months since the Sun Country Health region agreed to bring them back. But since then, not much progress has been made on turning the decision into a reality.

“We cant keep going on this way, there’s no way,” says Ken Wilson, member of the Wawota Save our Beds Committee. “Our mandate is to get our beds back, and get the services to our community, and communities—because this doesn’t just involve Wawota, it’s bigger than that. And we want to get our services back that our people need.” 

The Save our Beds committee has been working tirelessly to get the ball rolling on the project, and the NDP has stepped up to help. The party’s provincial leader Dwaine Lingenfelter, and Cannington candidate Todd Gervais met with members from the Save our Beds committee last week in Wawota to discuss the issue and offer their support.

“What we need to do, most importantly, is look after the needs of the people in the area, especially here in Wawota, where the closure of the long term care beds is just not acceptable,” said Lingenfelter from Kimi’s Cafe in Wawota. “Especially at a time when the need is greater than ever—to reduce the number of beds just doesn’t make any sense.”

“We have made a commitment to definitely seeing this problem remedied as soon as possible,” adds Gervais. Lingenfelter and Gervais have had ongoing meetings with the Wawota committee since the beds were closed last spring and say if they continue to keep tabs on the issue and push for the reopening of the beds, the government might take formal action.

“I think we’ve made progress in the sense that it’s still under consideration to make changes to either re-open the beds or even look at expanding the number of beds—which would be even better,”says Lingenfelter. “So we believe that if we keep pressure on the government, that we can in fact expand the service of long term care here (in Wawota).”

He hopes that the board will make some firm decisions and formulate plans for the new beds in the next couple months, but if things are still up in the air by election time, Lingenfelter says it will definitely be an issue that he will draw attention to.

“If we form government and are given the confidence of the people here and in other parts of the province, this is a high priority,” he says. “It has been for the past year and certainly would be after the election.”

And the issue goes further than just the lack of immediacy the Sun Country Health Region has put on implementing the new long term care beds—there are concerns about the board itself.

The main reasons that the board gave for closing the beds last year was that the closure of the beds would save $100,000, and that there was a risk of infection where the beds were located. In April, when the Sun Country Health Region announced that they would re-open the beds, it was reported they had plans to bring in a consultant to look at adding the new beds to a different area of the existing building they were in.

“This is ironic because the whole reason they gave for closing the beds in the first place is because they wanted to save $110,000 a year in operating fees, which I’m sure will get eaten up by any kind of architectural consultant fees and construction,” says Gervais.

Wilson says that the Save our Beds committee wants to get the ball rolling on re-opening the beds, but it has been somewhat difficult working with the board.

“Every time we poke a hole in what they are talking about, they come up with another plan, they have another set of reasons.,” says Wilson. “So it has just mushroomed and mushroomed.”

“People don’t like to admit they made a mistake, so what do you do? How do you solve that mistake?” “This is what we’ve been trying our darndest to do,” says Wilson.

Gervais says that as the NDP candidate for the area, he will do everything he can to address the concerns with the health region’s board.

“I want to remind you that the interm CEO and the board members of the entire health region all serve at the pleasure of the minister. And we all know there have been problems, so as a candidate down here, I can assure you that I will be pushing for a very close review of what’s happening within the management of the Sun Country Health Region,” he says.

After a string of incidences that resulted in the firing of the health region’s CEO and the resignation of the vice president of finance last year, the board has been under fire, and people including Gervais want to see them held accountable.

“I believe that it has been a failure of this government to not act earlier on taking a detailed look at the board and their practices,” says Gervais. “I think the time to do it was a year ago . . . and now we’re a year after that and problems still havent been solved, and we’re coming up on an election, so if not now—when?,” he says. “I’m ready to push for that to happen as soon as possible.”

Wilson says the Save our Beds committee is happy with the efforts that Gervais and Lingenfelter are making, but they are more focused on getting the beds back, rather than launching an audit into the actions of the Sun Country Health Region.

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