Guest column - Hindsight now sharper than one might like to see


By Mike Waddell

Neepawa Banner & Press

As the daily barrage of information with the COVID-19 pandemic comes across the airwaves, internet and newspapers, it is a challenge to sort through the static. As a guest editorial writer this week, I would like to isolate one of the underlying tones that is, at times, being lost in the babble. 

As one looks back through the carnage, largely in the realm of long term care homes, I have a faint hope. I have hope that as a result of the horrific results we have seen, this will shine a spotlight on the need for a more intense focus on elder care in our country. 

In the early stages of the pandemic, it was revealed that there were long term care facilities where staffing levels and protocols were inadequate to the point of crisis. Political leaders nodded solemnly and said “nothing is off the table” in looking at ways to address the long standing shortfalls in relation to Canada’s long term care homes. While it may not yet be the time to fully address the shortfalls, while in the depths of the crisis, it isn’t too early to acknowledge that no matter when we face the concerns, it will come at a huge cost financially. Governments at all levels are going to wring their hands and tut tut about “where might we find the money”.  It is at these moments that hindsight is sharper than one might like.

If one were to drive into Winnipeg and to enter the Parkview Place Personal Care Home and make your way to the top of the building and look a mile to the southeast, you will see the sun shining off of the Canadian Museum of Human Rights (CMHR). If you could see over and past other buildings to look straight south to a point about eight miles away, you would see the majestic shape of the stadium where the Blue Bombers play. These two projects combined have accounted for more than $700 million in capital spending from a combination of tax dollars and donations.  

While no one has an exact amount in mind yet as to what the challenges facing long term care will cost, it is for certain that moving from multiple occupancy rooms to single occupancy rooms, as an example, will not come cheaply. It is certain from the very outdated model of determining how many staffing hours are allocated to each resident that yet more money is needed. Long term care is not– and I know I may take heat for this statement– a place where people go to be rehabilitated and return to their own homes. It is, however, a place where residents should have the right to experience dignified and appropriate care in an environment where every possible effort is made to affirm the individuals who reside there.  We are blessed in Western Manitoba with incredible people who are doing everything within their power and beyond to provide this precise experience.

As someone who has been interacting with long term care staff on an almost weekly basis for the past 18 months, I know that we do not have a lack of incredible people who give of themselves sacrificially in care of others. What we have is a model that experts have been sounding the alarm on for more than a decade. Imagine if political leaders could have turned the volume down on those people who demanded that we find the money for the CMHR and the stadium and brought the volume up instead on the voices calling for an overhaul of the system governing the care of our elders.  Do the museum and stadium have value for our province? In some measure, but both are locked up at the moment and the public cannot enter.  Sadly, for those in our long term care facilities, they too are locked up and in most cases, the residents’ loved ones cannot enter.

I hope that when we get through this chaos, that the next time an elected official or community leader clamours for a project, we remember that some of the carnage could have been avoided.

Editor’s note: Mike Waddell is serving as a guest columnist for this week’s edition of Right in the Centre. The views expressed in this column are the writer’s personal views and are not to be taken as being that of the Banner & Press staff.