Right in the Centre -It's become personal!


By Ken Waddell

Neepawa Banner & Press

The care of our elderly has a long history at Neepawa and I will endeavour to try to accurately outline the events over the past 50 or so years.

First though, let it be said that there are many, many very dedicated hard working people in the health care field who work far harder than many of us can or want to in order to bring daily, competent care to our elderly. That is a marvellous and wonderful thing that we all need to be thankful for.

What is frustrating is that there are many gaps that must be addressed. For whatever the reason, some of our care homes are under a lot of pressure and the trick is to identify the source. The unions and opposition parties would want us to believe that more money and a change of government would solve all our problems. They may have a partial grip on the truth but I think the problems aren't about to be solved that simply. I believe that the various stances by the unions, in some cases, contribute to the problems.

We often hear about problems and gaps in elder care and it seems to be related to a number of factors such as money, questionable rules, shortage of staff and often, incompetent administration. I would say that incompetent or ill-trained administration, aided by multiple and unnecessary layers of bureaucracy lead to plain, ordinary, bad administration. That said, running a care home has to be one of the most challenging jobs there is, but we know that and therefore we need the most gifted administrators in those positions. Many things are going well in our care homes, but there is a huge need for improvement. If you don't believe that, then talk to any care home worker at any level. Their frustration level is very high.

I apologize to readers from areas outside of Neepawa, that when it comes to history of the development of care homes, most of what I have to say next is Neepawa based. If possible, perhaps that experience can be applied elsewhere.

Here is where it becomes personal, but becoming personal doesn't mean that my thoughts and experiences aren't shared and felt by many other people. Personal, in that I am getting to an age where care home residency could be any time due to age, or if my health fails. Personal, in that my hometown of Neepawa has had to fight every step of the way to get needs recognized and served. Personal, in that as a 30 plus year publisher and two term mayor, I have invested thousands of hours into trying to advance the cause, so to speak. I lost an election in 2002 over care home issues at Neepawa.

In the 1960s, Neepawa (along with many other towns) didn't have a care home. The need was identified in that era by the Neepawa and Area Development Corporation (NADCO). Surveys were done, a board formed from area reps, money raised, a CMHC mortgage obtained and Phase 1 of East View Lodge was built. The home was too small almost as soon as it was built and a second phase brought the home to a 120 bed capacity. Later, the local hospital board and the EVL board combined. Still later, the government brought in regional health authorities and basically forced the local boards to give their facilities to the region. It started out as Marquette and evolved several times to what is now Prairie Mountain Regional Health Authority.

A common thread through all this transition has been the competency levels. RHA administration has ranged from completely incompetent, to highly competent. In my opinion and experience, current PMH CEO, Brian Schoonbaert is very competent. Some may disagree.

Today, Neepawa doesn't have a 120 bed care home but 100 beds. The RHA says nine are closed due to staffing shortages but others tell me the number is a lot higher.

The bottom line is that elder care is personal to me and should be to us all. We owe our elderly and ourselves a better way of doing things. In order to improve conditions, change has to come.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this column are the writer's personal views and are not to be taken as being the view of the Banner & Press staff.