Thursday, 01 June 2017 10:50

Bassano long term care situation disconcerting

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Concern over health care and social issues are supposed to be a trademark of the provincial NDP government.

Don't tell that to members of the Newell Foundation and Bassano mayor Tom Rose who watched after seeing a project which would have created living spaces and long term care beds within a new health care facility in Bassano just slowly and painfully evaporate officially with a letter dated May 1 from the provincial government which stated the proposal was no longer feasible.
In a story written by Rose Sanchez in the May 26 edition of Prairie Post and is now receiving some widespread provincial coverage, the Newell Foundation had been working towards helping to build a new innovative health care facility for Bassano. It had been a project which initially been in the works in 2011.
The story states "The project (in Bassano) ... was a collaborative plan that incorporated supported living, a dementia wing, long-term care, community services and acute care in an efficient building.”
The situation reminds one of a weak personal break up...ignore them long enough and they will go away. Well, the Newell Foundation and those in Bassano didn't leave. Letters in the first two months of the year as well as phone conversation in March, all continually demanded to hear from the province. Finally, the Foundation got a letter in May.  It was kind of a 'oops, sorry, our bad' letter.
Without the funding for the project, Bassano can't make it work. To add insult to injury the $3.4 million Affordable Supportive Living Initiative Grant the Newell group received in March 2015 had to be handed back to the government.
For the eyes of those who live in cities (Calgary's metropolitan area is 1.4 million while Edmonton's was 1.3 million) a town like Bassano of 1,206 or the County of Newell 7,500 and the City of Brooks 14,000 constitute mere urban neighborhoods. Fiscally for them, decisions like this show the attitude is they feel they could better spend their money elsewhere (with more voters). 
The problem with that way of thinking is that while the population numbers don't compare, you still need a vibrant rural base to make this province work (see agriculture, natural resources, manufacturing etc.).
From the compassionate aspect, here's what this rejection of the plan means: people who would normally stay close to their homes or elderly couples who would normally have the opportunity to stay together can't.  It means decent paying jobs would have brought or kept people in Bassano and the county of Newell are no longer there.
Sure, a brand new hospital can't be built in every small town or village but our population is aging, quickly. According to the government's owns stats: "there were about 410,000 seniors in Alberta (in 2011) but by 2031, when the last of the baby boomers reach 65 years of age, it is projected that there will be more than 923,000 seniors - meaning about one in five Albertans will be a senior."
Sorry, all those seniors can't fit in Calgary and Edmonton. If the NDP government was as caring and forward thinking as they say they are, they would realize projects like this one in Bassano are just what the province needs. It's in a fair sized town which can serve a large geographical area. Use it as a model for future projects: make it more efficient, helpful and above learn how government and all of the centralized bureaucracy in the two cities can actually serve the entire province better. Isn't that the point of centralizing everything? Just because government offices in small towns are closed in order to have all of the brilliant minds all under one roof so to speak doesn't mean the rest of the province is ignored or taken for granted.
A plan was agreed to, a lot of work by the local volunteers was put into it and then to have it ignored and then eventually brushed aside is rather cold. One would think that someone within the 13 member executive team including 12 vice presidents; an Alberta Health Services board of eight board members and a complicated looking organizational flow chart (updated May 1, 2017 ), someone within all of those staffs would've thought, "hey, maybe we should figure this Bassano situation out?"
(See: assets/about/org/ahs-org-orgchart.pdf)
It is pretty scary when you think of all the bureaucracy involved (people in business attire as opposed to front line health care professionals serving those who need assistance).
Sometimes in life, tough decisions are made, but in this case with Bassano, the Newell Foundation and the government, it shows you how well a centralized, heavy bureaucracy, urban-centric approach works in communication with rural areas – it clearly doesn't.
Health care is supposed to be about compassion as well as understanding the overall impact of decisions made affecting those hard working people in the heart of rural Alberta.  Those in the hallowed ivory towers of the Alberta legislature got it wrong. Bassano deserved a lot better fate not to mention much better treatment.
Ryan Dahlman is managing editor with the Prairie Post. Contact him with your comments about this opinion piece at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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Ryan Dahlman

Managing Editor