Health, hous­ing is­sues dear to se­niors

Provin­cial Lib­er­als hear from pub­lic at Bay Roberts event

The Compass - - OPINION - BY AN­DREW ROBIN­SON ed­i­tor@cb­n­com­

Health care and hous­ing were hot top­ics at a pub­lic fo­rum on is­sues fac­ing se­niors held in Bay Roberts last Thurs­day.

Hosted by the provin­cial Lib­eral party and its health critic, Bur­geo-La Poile MHA An­drew Par­sons, the event heard from peo­ple sug­gest­ing wait-times are still too long and ac­cess­ing a fam­ily physi­cian is prob­lem­atic.

Bay Roberts Mayor Philip Wood had to visit Car­bon­ear Gen­eral Hos­pi­tal the night be­fore. He was not im­pressed by how long peo­ple were wait­ing to be seen.

“I had a per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence just last night where you go to the hos­pi­tal and you can pretty well guar­an­tee 6-8 hours min­i­mum,” he said. “It’s not a surgery item you’re hav­ing or some­thing along those lines. There were peo­ple there last night that needed X-rays on limbs and that kind of stuff.”

Par­sons ac­knowl­edged the prov­ince has made some gains on wait-times for cer­tain pro­ce­dures in re­cent years, but said there re­mains work to be done. He sug­gests it may be a mat­ter of con­sid­er­ing how re­sources are al­lo­cated rather than sim­ply spend­ing more money on a health-care sys­tem that’s al­ready proven to be very costly for gov­ern­ment.

The need for more doc­tors was also brought up, with one woman stat­ing more in­cen­tives need to be of­fered to keep doc­tors in New­found­land and Labrador and es­pe­cially ru­ral ar­eas. Wood also brought up the fact many lo­cal physi­cians are get­ting older and will likely re­tire in the years ahead.

“If all of th­ese se­nior doc­tors left to­day, we would be in se­ri­ous trou­ble here in the CBN area,” said the mayor.

A re­cent an­nounce­ment that Memo­rial Univer­sity will be ac­cept­ing more stu­dents into its School of Medicine is good news on that front in Par­sons’ view. He noted, “it’s cheaper to en­roll them then it is to buy them.”

Par­sons said doc­tors born in New­found­land and Labrador value qual­ity of life, and ru­ral parts of the prov­ince can cer­tainly com­pete with other places on that front.

On the hous­ing side of things, at­ten­dees spoke of the high cost of liv­ing for se­niors.

One cou­ple said they would like to be able to af­ford to move into a space that would bet­ter ac­com­mo­date them as they age in­stead of liv­ing in a large home, but liv­ing on Old Age Se­cu­rity makes that dif­fi­cult. If they were to con­sider try­ing to earn ex­tra in­come, they may risk los­ing ac­cess to the provin­cial Pre­scrip­tion Drug Pro­gram. That in turn would cre­ate new fi­nan­cial chal­lenges.

A woman at the event said wait­lists for get­ting into spe­cial­ized units for peo­ple ages 55 and over are long — it can take two-to-three years for some­one to get in.

It was also noted that once a per­son gets into a per­sonal care home, the monthly cost can leave a res­i­dent with only $100-$150 left to spend.

On Thurs­day, the newly-formed Depart­ment of Se­niors, Well­ness and So­cial De­vel­op­ment noted that as of Oct. 3, ap­prox­i­mately 42,000 se­niors in the prov­ince are now ben­e­fit­ting from an en­hanced Low In­come Se­niors’ Ben­e­fit. This year’s pay­ment of $1,036 was the high­est ever, up 6.7 per cent from last year. That re­fund­able tax credit is linked to the Con­sumer Price In­dex.

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