I was shocked to find out the other day that Fort St. John does NOT have a new hospital. Let me explain.
My 88-year-old father-in-law, bless his heart, was once again in need of medical attention. After being examined and tested in the emergency department, it was determined that he needed to be hospitalized. When I inquired when he would be moved upstairs to the ward, I was told that they were waiting for a bed to open up. So I asked how long that might take. I was told that he was actually the sixth person in emergency waiting for a ward bed, and it would be at least one day, if not two before he was moved. I was shocked! This was reminiscent of the old inadequate hospital that we had just closed down four months ago. I mentioned that we had been assured over the past couple of years that there would be plenty of beds for the region's citizens in need. That's when I found out that of the 36 beds on the ward, 22 were occupied by seniors waiting to get into the care homes. Which left me with the shocking discovery that we did NOT have a new hospital; we had a very expensive and inadequate seniors housing facility – that happened to have a variety of medical departments attached.
And that is the root of the problem. Once again, our seniors have been shafted. I am constantly amazed that the powers-that-be cannot do simple Math. When the new care home was designed, and plans made to shut down the Peace Lutheran Care Home and the Pouce Coupe home, did they not calculate how many beds would be needed for the region? There are TWENTY-TWO people in the Fort St. John Hospital alone waiting for a care home bed to open up. That does not include seniors in private homes and facilities, not only in Fort St. John, but in every community between Fort Nelson and Chetwynd, who may also be waiting for a room in either Fort St. John's or Dawson Creek's Care Home. To put this in perspective, two years ago, we thought my father-in-law required a bed in a care home. We were told that he was 6th on the list. The estimated time for a bed to open up was six to nine months. (Fortunately, we haven't had to go that route ... yet.) So, can you imagine how long it will take for all those currently on the wait list to get into a care home?
The twenty two in the Hospital are spending their last days on earth in a room shared with another person, with no dresser to house their clothes, no lazy boy chair to recline in and watch TV, no personal belongings to carefully place around their own rooms to remind them of their life's journey and those they walked it with, no carpet on their floor, no dining room to visit with others, a total lack of privacy when people come to visit, yes, staff who are well trained to give medical attention, but no care aids who so gently bathe them, help them get dressed each morning, and take an active interest in them, no common areas set up for socialization with the usual items and activities that care homes supply ... The list goes on and on. One can only imagine the strain on families and friends struggling to take care of those also waiting for a care home bed who are not in the Hospital, juggling family, schedules, work and finances to do their best, but always feeling like they are falling short in providing a relaxing and adequate home environment for those unable to care for themselves during their latter days.
I hope that if I am in need of emergency room care, that the Emergency staff will be available to me, rather than attending to the needs of those who should have a more comfortable ward room upstairs. And if I am in need of a ward room, that the appropriately trained staff will be available to me, rather than caring for seniors who rightfully deserve a bright room in a care home. And that if I am in need of a care home bed, I will have a nice room and facilities to peacefully enjoy my last days. But it all starts with taking care of our seniors' needs. They aren't going away. I know, because one day, you I will be one of them. And I, for one, do not want to be handed a one-way January ferry trip along a scenic route to Anchorage and be abandoned on an ice floe.
Charlie Lake, B.C.