Health, housing issues dear to seniors
Provincial Liberals hear from public at Bay Roberts event
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.