Focusing On a Much Larger Issue

Dear Editor;
Now that we have expressed our concerns for the animals in the GuZoo and the garbage pickup in town, I would like to draw your attention to a much larger issue...seniors in the Three HiIls Continuing Care (CC) and our facility as a whole.
I have been hearing rumblings of different issues happening in CC but my interests peaked when I became aware that a continent resident was not toileted when the need arose due to issues with a lift and a commode. Having met with the Area Manager of Senior Health, I have just received confirmation from her that this issue has been dealt with after it came to her attention. Why did I have to be the one to bring this to her attention? However, this is not the only facility that has issues.
This leads me to the conclusion that unless you have a resident in the facility, how do you know what is going on? Thus, this letter is to you.
Did you know that the residents of this facility and many around the province only get one bath a week? There are simply not enough hands or time to do more. You who shower or bath once a day and sometimes twice, how will you adjust to this schedule when and if you require the services of the CC? This is even more distressing if you happen to be the one who is incontinent.
Did you know that the residents of the facility now eat meals that have been frozen outside the facility and then reheated? No more natural pies, puddings, cakes and cookies! I wonder how many additives these poor people are consuming. I personally experienced this when I was a patient in acute care and found them only okay but this was not my permanent home or diet. Do they get seasonal things like rhubarb pie or peach cobbler? What's that you say: "Family could bring that in." But what of the person who has no family?
Another issue is that bed rails have now been deemed as restraints to patients and this comes from the powers at the top. So to prevent injury, facilities are using high/low beds so when people crawl out they can fall on rubber mat. But does this CC facility have such beds? I understand that Hanna CC got 40 new beds and Drumheller CC got 80 new beds and Three Hills got one new bed and the hand-me-downs from acute care. Granted, these facilities are larger and it is the powers in upper management who disperse the numbers from wish lists sent to them. But who watches out for our needs and are our wish lists adequate?
Needless to say, the staff on CC is frustrated the tired. They feel no one is listening to them within the system, either local or provincial. Why haven't they said something to us, the public? Remember the gag order rumours earlier and the recent issues in the paper of the physicians who were threatened by speaking out. If physicians aren't saying anything, do you think the staff on the unit would chance talking? So where are the supervisors who oversee the running of the unit? This unit is monitored by a Care Manager out of Hanna She is here two days a week minus 2.5 hours driving time. Apparently, this is happening all over the province with some managers responsible for up to four facilities. Now, I am not an accountant but wouldn't it make more sense to put the money spent on traveling expenses and wages, accommodation for a night and maybe even meals, towards the hiring of a manager part-time here who would have an invested community interest in the CC unit?
Now for all these care needs that are limited, what can family and friends do? Come in and help bath, do hair, etc.? Most of these patients were admitted because the care could not be managed by family. Can they hire someone? Well, that depends! There is no standard policy. Each facility has its own policy. Can't hire a staff member to help on her own time because that is a "conflict of interest". Can't hire just anyone in the community because they are not qualified to run the equipment! So that leaves qualified people who belong to an organization like Helping Hands. But do they come to Three Hills or are they just in the city and are they limited to what they can do because of union concerns. So how do we get help for our loved ones?
However, now the bigger issue is staffing of the unit. Current staff is wore out. Their own health is suffering and they are quitting. Why are they not being replaced? Have you seen any ads in the local paper for staff? No, because now all requests for staff are sent to head office and they are posted on the Alberta Health Service's website (AHS.com). A copy is also posted on the board downstairs in the local facility. How are the public to know that there are jobs available in our local facility? Not everyone has a computer but likewise, not everyone gets a paper. However, ads would alert the general public to the current needs of the facility and, by word of mouth, others would find out. I have also been informed that now Personal Care Aides must have a certified course before they can be hired. What happened to the on-the-job-training program the government had? Are these courses offered here in town, can anyone attend or are they only for a select few? So to compensate for lack of staff, management has put a freeze on admissions. Last I heard, there were five empty beds. I have been told this facility has been red flagged by the government. Red flagged for what, a change of status for our CC? No more RN's on the unit? Heavy care people will have to go somewhere else? We dealt with local people going out of town over 15 years ago. Are we regressing? Or worse, will they be admitted to Acute Care and tie up all those beds. Our new doctors did not come here to only look after CC residents. Then this no longer becomes just a CC issue but a complete facility issue. Is anyone watching this progression and speaking out on behalf of Three Hills?
Has anyone received the email comparing the care of prisoners to the care of Seniors? I always laughed at it and said how true and slid it into the trash file. But now I am furious! Hello, all you baby boomers; we may be the next to need CC. If we don't fight for our facility now, who will? Our seniors have fought and paid dearly to get us to where we are today, and now I am one of those seniors. Why are we limiting their simplest everyday needs? Is it more profitable to rehab our criminals and keep them alive than our elderly? When will the members of parliament start to realize that rural facilities need different solutions to their needs than city facilities? Every community has specific needs and so does the facilities within. When will they start listening to the people who care for our elderly and the community that supports them?
So what do US as a community do? Personally, I think the community of Three Hills and surrounding area need a watch dog to oversee the use of our health facility, either a new committee or one that already exists. We need someone to keep the community informed. We all need to pay attention and speak up for what is necessary. Talk to each other, be interested in our facility, send your concerns to your MLA or the Minister of Health and be heard. I am and I have!
Evelyn Howe, or original
coordinator of the Three Hills
Long Term Care (now CC)