Local seniors expressed various concerns about health care and long-term care as Wildrose Opposition seniors’ critic Kerry Towle stopped in Stettler on Tuesday morning.
Towle is on a two-week tour of the province.
Closing long-term-care beds in Stettler Hospital and Care Centre and the transfer to the new Points West Living support-living complex in Stettler were key issues at Tuesday’s gathering.
The open discussion involved about 30 people, mostly from Stettler and Consort.
With the provincial budget coming next Thursday, Towle urged residents to write to Health Minister Fred Horne to express their concerns about health-care services in the community and new facilities for seniors.
“You need a letter-writing campaign and write letters to the editor in your local newspaper,” said Towle, who also encouraged them to send the letters to Drumheller-Stettler MLA Rick Strankman.
“Rick and I will work closely together,” said Towle, a former employee of David Thompson Health Region, which encompassed the Stettler area.
She admitted that the new provincial budget will also have a huge impact on seniors’ care.
Towle and many seniors agreed that funding cuts could “severely” hurt seniors.
“We don’t know what will happen until the provincial budget,” she said.
“My fear is that it will mean cuts off the backs of seniors.”
By involving seniors and their families, and working together with the Wildrose Opposition, issues can be resolved, she said.
One of those issues was the quality of food at the Stettler hospital.
“We got food changes as a result of a public campaign,” Towle said.
“Opposition gives a voice and you can make a difference.”
Local residents echoed issues voiced in other communities.
“The concerns I’m hearing here in Stettler are the same I hear all over Alberta,” Towle said.
With senior couples often separated in different communities, those at the meeting agreed more decisions need to be make at the community level.
“You need to go back to local decision-making,” Towle said. “We don’t need a super-board. We want local boards, not regional boards.
“Too much money is spent at the top and not enough at the frontlines for patients and seniors.”
Towle said it should be determined what the new Stettler supportive-living facility is required to provide in services and how that will affect residents and staff.
During the first week of her tour, she discovered that seniors support Bill 208: the Seniors’ Advocate Act, which would create a permanent position for an advocate to work on seniors’ behalf.
The position would be independent and report to the legislature to hold the government accountable for the services seniors receive.
“Seniors and family members need to be able to speak up about the service they receive from Alberta Health Services and the government,” Towle said.
“Meeting with seniors across northern Alberta has been a pleasure, and the generosity of drop-in centres and lodges has been tremendous. It’s clear there are great staff members who truly care about their clients and residents.”
Towle wraps up the tour this Saturday in Cochrane and Red Deer, and plans to produce a report with recommendations for the Progressive Conservative government.