Kaslo’s mayor says council will ask the provincial government why it was snubbed in a recent announcement on extended care beds for seniors.
“They were promised to us 20 years ago, when 10 beds were put in place in Kaslo,” says Mayor Suzan Hewat. “We were operating on the assumption we would be in line for an additional 10 beds.”
The province announced in July it was adding 495 long-term care beds to meet the needs of the senior population in the Interior Health region. It said the increase was the largest announced in over 15 years.
But the beds are earmarked for Vernon, Kamloops, Kelowna, and Nelson.
Others in Kaslo lobbying for the beds say that community should have been given some of that allotment.
“We’re fed up with it,” says Val Koenig, who has been leading a lobbying effort for more beds since 2000. “After they built the first 10, they said they would build another 10 in 2001 or 2002, and the plans were drawn up. Since then they have ignored every attempt we’ve made to contact them.”
Hewat says they aren’t giving up hope the community can get some of that new money. She says Kaslo can accommodate those seniors’ needs, and the physical space is available at the community health centre.
And she says the announcement that beds would be going to Nelson doesn’t mean it’s a done deal. She notes Interior Health has only issued five requests for proposals for the beds that will be evaluated in the fall. A decision will be awarded in early 2021.
“There’s an intake process that will go on, so we’re going to write a letter to the ministry… and see if there’s any possibility that 10 of those can be diverted to construction in Kaslo to fulfill that 20-year-old promise,” says Hewat. “If we don’t ask the question, we don’t have a chance.”
Hewat says Kaslo has a good case for more beds.
“We meet the threshold for having 30 per cent of our population as seniors, so it’s definitely needed,” she says. “We have a lot of seniors who are being displaced from their community to be cared for elsewhere. And in many cases their friends and family are old as well, and their options for visits are quite limited, especially in the wintertime.
“It’s not right we have to travel.”
She says more extended care beds are essential for the long-term viability of communities like Kaslo.
“We need to advocate for our seniors. They matter as much as seniors from the big cities – in our case, Nelson. It’s great for Nelson, but it really speaks to economic development as well. It provides good employment for people. We need to have those beds.”
Kaslo council has been lobbying for senior governments to recognize the need for more in-community seniors’ care, and has developed a resolution to that effect. It’s been forwarded to this year’s UBCM convention for debate.
The province says it is investing more than $1 billion over three years to improve care for seniors, including investments in primary care, home health, long-term care, assisted living and respite services.
— From the Valley Voice