This pandemic is leading us in many new and surprising directions.
Last week, I called someone I hadn’t spoken to in perhaps 25 years. She had been my “best friend” in high school, and we had roomed together during our first two years of university. My husband remarked, “You two used to have a lot of fun together.”
That, we did. But as life would have it, I married, then she married, and as we lived hundreds of kilometres apart and got busy raising our families, communication between us dwindled and eventually ceased. When she picked up the phone a few days ago and said hello, all those years vanished, and we easily fell into a conversation only two old friends can have.
We had a lot of catching up to do. I was happy to hear that her 95-year-old mother, widowed many years ago, is still living independently in her own apartment.
I was pleased to hear that her 99-year-old uncle, a veteran of the Second World War, had lived in his home until the age of 95. Following emergency surgery, he had been transferred from the hospital to the Youville Veterans Centre.
My friend said, “There is no COVID there. It is federally funded. Money is not a problem. The veterans are treated like royalty.”
It made me sad for my father, though, also a veteran of World War II. At 101, he is languishing in a for-profit extended care facility, where money is always a problem and the term “royal treatment” does not come to mind when I think of the care received by the residents there.
Eleven of the 62 residents have died of COVID-19 so far. Many more, including my father, have been confirmed positive for the virus.
When the announcement came, on April 17, 2020, that Alberta Health Services [AHS] had taken over the day-to-day operations of the facility for a minimum of 90 days, I felt as though a 1,000-pound weight had been lifted from my shoulders.
Measures are now in place to reduce the further spread of COVID-19.
And now, at least I know that the residents are being bathed and fed, and their medical needs tended to.
Many who died before AHS took over did not even have that as they fought to take their last breath.
This crisis has served to shine a light on the neglect or worse going on in some of these for-profit facilities. Lawsuits have already been filed against some of them.
Hopefully, that will give future would-be profiteers cold feet. A just and compassionate society would naturally consider the care of those in need a service rather than a business.
Common sense dictates that if care is based on a business model, where the objective is to maximize profit, then fewer staff will be hired, they will be paid less, fresh fruit will never be served, and bulging urine bags and ensuing bladder infections will be as common as house dust.
Unfortunately, common sense is far less common than one would expect. Furthermore, when this for-profit facility opened, the publicly- funded nursing home across the road closed, leaving area residents with no other option.
Many believed at the time that politics had played a role there – not the good kind.
It is being said that 80 percent of Canada’s long-term care facilities are privately owned.
These facilities have very quietly become firmly entrenched in our communities.
If you are thinking that you have the money to afford good care, you’d better think again. As many have only painfully discovered, in a privatized system, there is no guarantee that the money you pay will be spent on you and not siphoned into the company coffers.
Those of us who do not wish to end up in one of these facilities must do more than apathetically wait for someone else to do something about it. We must vocalize and mobilize.
We must communicate to our elected officials what we want, and more importantly here, what we don’t want. We must, each in our own way, decide how we will help bring about a better world, and do something concrete to move toward it.
If we do nothing, “we will end up where we’re headed” as Will Rogers so aptly said. If we do nothing, we will surely suffer the same fate as the majority of our society’s most vulnerable are today.
My father was born during the last pandemic, just as the Spanish flu raged in the small community in which his family lived.
Will he survive this one?
Dad’s doctor said it well: “It’s bringing us to our knees.”
Yes, this microscopic entity has brought down our house of cards.
Hopefully we will rebuild, not on the foundation of the god of prophet, but on one of caring and compassion, with the wellbeing of those in need foremost in our hearts and minds.
So, AHS, please don’t leave when the 90 days are up. My dad needs you.
And Premier Jason Kenney, I am requesting that your government take care of dad, not someone trying to make money at his expense.
On this, the 75th anniversary of V-E Day, which marked the end of World War II in Europe, I am reminded that dad spent six long years there risking his life to protect others.
Now it is his turn to be protected and we have failed him.
I am pleading on behalf of my father, who deserves not only better, but the best our society can offer.