Protest in Kinsman Park
A large crowd came out to protest the Alberta government’s cuts to the disabled and seniors programs, privatization of care, and layoffs of public servants. The audience waited to hear addresses by Glen Scott, Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) vice president; Jason Hale, MLA; Mark Sandilands from the NDP party; and Val Rappel from the Happy Gang.
“In 2009, the provincial government promised Strathmore 35 long term care beds and an expansion to the existing hospital. Guess what…it broke its promise. Instead, it announced it would close the 23 long term beds that would provide excellent care, seamless treatment and an opportunity to for seniors to spend their last days in their community,” said Scott.
He commented that the vacated hospital rooms will be sitting empty. He condemned the government for giving close to $21 million to private for-profit healthcare operators, with a less than perfect care record, making money off the oldest and most vulnerable in the community. He said it has also cost 60 residents employment. Those employees were locals who live and contribute to the Strathmore economy.
“Now seniors have become a commodity and the demand for a bed will be based on the market, which is very high due to many years of under- funding. We have to keep sending the message to the government that Strathmore seniors are not for sale. Strathmore will not allow this government to use it as a testing ground for private for-profit long term care,” said Scott.
He is encouraged by the numbers of people that have been out to support that message, and said that continued pressure will cause government to re-evaluate its decision on this. He said this issue, in this community, is where the line in the sand is drawn. Standing our ground will deter similar situations happening in other communities.
Jason Hale said he is working hard by bringing up constituent concerns in parliament. He thinks that regulations in seniors accommodations under private care need to be tightened to improve protection for seniors. He said we need to hold the government accountable for what happens in the private facilities.
“To ensure wherever you are at, you are going to get top notch care. Our seniors deserve nothing less. The reason we have this beautiful province is because of the hard work our seniors have done, today and yesterday. We take a lot for granted. Many soldiers died in the war for our freedom, so we could have this great country and great province. If you are shuffling your seniors off, so you don’t have to look after them anymore, that is totally wrong,” said Hale.
He said there is money that can be redistributed to supply these needs. He commented on $250 million dollars the government is spending for a rooftop gardens that in the Conservative MLA office building and increases of eight per cent in wages. He said he needs the community behind him, to fight for what is right.
Sandilands said that the public healthcare system has been undermined for years. He said conservatives are pushing the Lethbridge model, which revolves around closures and privatization. He said that designated assisted living do not have adequate standards and regulations. He said there is an ongoing record of broken promises.
“They broke these promises, so they don’t have to tax millionaires, oil companies and large corporations” said Sandilands.
He said that with just a two per cent increase in taxes 11 billion dollars could be raised. He supported union organizations and reminded the audience that the working conditions we enjoy are due to efforts of unionized organizations. He said the government places financial recording conditions on the unions, but don’t require them for themselves.
Val Rappel said the Happy Gang has 128 members. She has lived in metropolitan and rural communities. She moved here because of its proximity to a hospital and the quality of life in Strathmore. She is dismayed at the ambulance service changes, closure at the hospital, and people losing jobs, and it inspired her to get a petition going against these measures.
“We have to fight back my friend. I am not sick right now. I don’t need a hospital, but I want to be able to go in a hospital that will look after me, not a care facility that has no regulations to tell it they have to have nurses at hand,” said Rappel.
She said we need to ask ourselves some hard questions about the healthcare decisions being made in this community and consider what will happen in the future, being we are so close to a major city.
Town Councillors Dave Hamilton and Rocky Blokland lent their support to the message. County Councillor Don Vander Velde was also at the demonstration.
Hamilton said that the time for talk was over and it was the time for action. Many people took action by signing petitions, set out for everyone to sign, and promising to send letters to Premier Redford, which can be accessed at www. strathmoreseniors.com. Scott said that protests will continue well into October. Local news staff and television media were on site.