Fighting for long-term care one story at a time
Tim Brody - Associate Editor
“We have to speak up… we have to let people know our concerns. We can no longer be silent.”
That’s what Sioux Lookout resident Dianna Ayotte said about the shortage of long-term care beds in Sioux Lookout for the catchment area serviced by Sioux Lookout Meno Ya Win Health Centre (SLMHC).
Ayotte and Anne Saltel, members of the citizen’s Long-Term Care Advocacy Committee, invited community members to the Sioux Area Senior Activity Centre last month to share their stories about the need for more long-term care beds in the community.
“We had young people with concerns. We had people in their 70s that had stories on looking after their elderly and the difficulties and having to ship them away; themselves being here wondering what kind of options they will have if they end up needing care,” Ayotte shared.
She continued, “One couple came in. One is a caregiver and the other one needs care. How can they manage as time goes on? There are generations that have lived in Sioux Lookout, people who have raised their families here. The children have left and they want to stay here, people who have tried to live other places and come back here because this is home. How can they cope without a care facility here for them?”
More than 30 people shared their stories. Seven letters containing people’s stories were received.
“These stories are very emotional and very personal,” Saltel confided.
Ayotte informed, “The consultants that were here to take the stories, they’re looking at the broad scope of the continuum of care for elderly and long-term care is a component in that continuum. So they were getting the local stories from that continuum.”
SLMHC president and CEO Heather Lee clarified, “In the fall of 2016, SLMHC was notified of funding being provided by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care (MOHLTC) to facilitate a Seniors Care and Housing Strategy in the Northern Sub-Region. The project has been carried out under the leadership of the Northwest LHIN with the participation of SLMHC and SLFNHA (Sioux Lookout First Nations Health Authority), and other community partners.
“A consulting company was secured with the funding from the MOHLTC to engage stakeholders and develop a cohesive strategy that recommends solutions to address the gap in seniors care and housing in the northern sub-region.”
Saltel stated, “Susan (Underhill, the consultant who visited the senior centre) recommended to us, she was going to come up with her final report… the end of March. She had told us that every municipality, everyone is fighting for these beds. So we need to be loud. So more letter writing to the various ministries, the MPs, MPPs, just continue on.”
Ayotte and Saltel are urging people to write to Kenora MP Bob Nault and Kenora-Rainy River MPP Sarah Campbell and share their concerns and stories about the need for more long-term care beds in Sioux Lookout.
“In addition, one of the things that came out of the gathering was that some individuals identified that they would like to start writing individual letters to different organizations to gain support. So the activity centre will generate a list of addresses with suggestions on where letters can be sent. It seems like the recommendations are there, but what isn’t there is the commitment by the politicians to fund a long-term care facility addition to the hospital,” Ayotte commented.
“What keeps coming forward is that the hospital has all of the infrastructure there in order to add the long-term care facility,” she added.
“Stories can still be dropped off here,” Ayotte said. “We will make sure they go where they need to go… We will not divulge names. The stories are confidential.”
People can also share their stories verbally with advocacy committee members Ayotte at 807-738-0471, or Dennis Leney at 807-737-0477.
“I think by talking about it, by bringing it out, more and more people could become aware of the issue,” Ayotte concluded.
Sioux Lookout currently has 20 long-term care beds at the William A George Extended Care Unit.
The waiting list for a bed at the facility is currently being measured in years.