Seniors association advocates for Valley health

Letter-writing campaign underway now

The Invermere Seniors Association is advocating for health services in the Columbia Valley. Following a letter to the editor in which an Invermere doctor said barriers are making it challenging for B.C. patients to access care in Alberta (‘Patient wall erected’ Pioneer, February 14th) the local senior’s group decided to take action.

The organization has drafted a form letter. The letter identifies the concern of referrals to the Alberta hospital system from the Columbia Valley. It asks for BC Health and Interior Health to work with Alberta Health to ensure they can efficiently meet the needs of people in our area. It asks for rural hospitals to be given better diagnostic capabilities such as CT scan machines, ultrasounds etc. to alleviate patient travel; and it asks for the Cranbrook hospital to be updated to become “truly a Regional hospital that meets all the medical needs of the East Kootenay population.”

The seniors group is making the letter available for members of the public to sign. Or, if residents would prefer, the association urges citizens to write their own letters outlining concerns. They will be gathering all the letters and sending them to the minister of health, Interior Health, MP Wayne Stetski, MLA Doug Clovechok, and Dr. Gareth Mannheimer.

Form letters can be picked up at the seniors hall, Legion, Valley Fitness Centre or the thrift shop, and can be returned to the seniors centre any time before March 31st (if the building is closed, place the letter in the key box at the centre).

Seniors association director Gerriann Donahue says they have several goals from this letter-writing campaign.

“We want the people to have the right to go to Calgary, or Banff, or Canmore,” says Ms. Donahue.

And, at the very least, she says, they want the government to at least make telemedicine options more readily available for local patients needing consultations with doctors elsewhere such as in Kelowna.

This is not the first advocacy the Invermere Seniors Association has done on behalf of Valley residents. The organization launched a petition last October at the second annual seniors fair, asking for a CT scan machine for Invermere. They also left the petition at several locations around town. The petition garnered close to 900 signatures from residents keen on getting a CT scan machine into the Invermere hospital, reports Ms. Donahue.

When asked why this matter was of concern to the seniors association, Ms. Donahue pointed to the demographics in the Columbia Valley.

“We have an aging population,” says Ms. Donahue. “You see a lot more walkers than strollers.”

She says strokes are a big reason the local seniors group would like to see a CT scan machine in Invermere. What she explains is that after someone has a stroke, they need to have a CT scan prior to receiving a shot that aids in their recovery. The nearest CT scanner available is in Cranbrook. Ms. Donahue’s own mother had a stroke elsewhere, got the CT scan and the subsequent shot and was home within a few days. However, a friend of Ms. Donahue’s in the Columbia Valley was not able to make it to get a CT scan quickly after a stroke, which meant that person did not get the shot in a timely fashion. Ms. Donahue says that individual required several months of rehabilitation in Cranbrook and Kelowna.

“Nobody I know has been able to get the shot,” says Ms. Donahue.

She says while they have not had formal corresondance with Interior Health, unofficially, “They’re giving us a million reasons why,” they will not bring a CT scan machine to Invermere.

Interior Health did not respond to multiple requests for an interview by the Pioneer’s press time.

The petition is now in the hands of MLA Doug Clovechok, who will be bringing it to an upcoming meeting with the B.C. minister of health.

Mr. Clovchok has a list of grievances to bring to the minister on behalf of Columbia River-Revelstoke constituents. He is going to continue to advocate for better transportation options for patients needing care in regional hospitals, as well as pushing for more telehealth options for rural patients.

“It all goes back to the transportation issue. If someone does have a stroke in our area, they’ve got to get transported to Cranbrook right away, the sooner the better for the shot,” says Mr. Clovechok. “My job is to try and find better ways to have access to the amazing health care we already do have.”

Mr. Clovechok met with the Invermere Seniors Association when they drafted the letter. He tells the Pioneer that at that meeting, he made clear that a CT scan machine was not likely to happen for our hospital based on his understanding of the system and the decision-making process. He also passed on what he has learned about the complicated health system and how the Columbia Valley fits into that framework. If you have a health-related story to share with Mr. Clovechok prior to his meeting with the Province, email doug.clovechok.MLA@leg.bc.ca.

Invermere Seniors Centre

The Invermere Seniors Association runs the Invermere seniors centre. For $20 annual membership, you get access to the programming (plus a minimal drop-in fee for most activities). The Invermere Seniors Centre is located at 1309 14th St. Invermere.

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