Son maintains vigil for parents

It has been five years since the death of my parents while in the care of the Interior Health Authority.

It has been five years since the death of my parents while in the care of the Interior Health Authority.

They were four months short of their 70th anniversary and both in hospital, when despite our family’s wishes, they were separated and my mom was moved to a long-term-care facility more than 100 kilometres away. She was transferred by an office worker and without being seen by a doctor. She died alone within 45 hours and her husband died in hospital 10 days later.

I will once again be holding a vigil from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. outside the hospital on Friday to protest their deaths, the treatment of seniors by our health care system and the ongoing shortage of long-term-care beds.

Only a few weeks ago, another local family contacted us because IHA again was going to separate an elderly, long-time married couple. One partner was already in long-term care and the other now qualified for the same long-term care, but no accommodation in the same facility was going to be provided. The promise made to my family by IHA after our tragedy had been forgotten and it took the reminder and the intervention of our MLA to prevent a similar tragedy again.

Despite IHA claims, B.C. now has the second-lowest number of residential care beds per 1,000 seniors over age 75; only New Brunswick has a lower rate. We need to be working to increase numbers of beds to the levels achieved by Saskatchewan or Manitoba, not racing other provinces to the bottom.

The IHA recently said there was only one person in acute care in KBRH waiting for residential placement. However, I have heard some people say they are being forced to leave although unable to cope at home.

Others say they have to take parents into their own homes, or pay the $29.40 per day fee if they need longer hospital convalescent care. Often there is nowhere else they can go, except to leave their hometown where they have friends and relatives.

The IHA needs to realize that growing old is not a crime; it is a fact of life. Seniors, and indeed all patients and their families, deserve to be treated with compassion, dignity and respect. There’s lots the IHA could be doing to help seniors, but it still isn’t happening and that’s why I and some friends will be taking a stand outside Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital on Friday.

Jim Albo