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Making it Easy

“I’m from the bureaucracy and I’m here to make things easier for you”. In a system that functions on meaningful consultation and two-way dialog, these could be comforting words, rather than ones that cause news articles, headaches and other pains.

Concerns raised over parking changes at Cross Cancer Institute – Global Edmonton

It’s my first blog post of the new year and a story I’ve been wanting to comment on for awhile now, as soon as free time allowed.

Last winter I volunteered to drive a relative to an appointment at the Leduc hospital. I’m not particularly experienced with medical facilities outside of Edmonton, so it was a new experience to me. Upon arriving I proceeded to do the first thing that any Edmontonian would do, ascertain where to pay for parking. This is the moment where one truly realizes that they’re not in the big city anymore, parking is free. No attendant to pass on the way in or out, no machine to pay, run up to, run back to the car, and then run into in the building.

Getting in was as easy as could be.

Whether or not you’re charging visitors and patients for parking at a major medical facility, as an operator you should have one particular goal in mind – making entry and egress for people who aren’t exactly there to have a good time, as easy on them as possible.

If you’re a cancer patient bravely facing a terrible illness, a scared and ill individual arriving at an ER, or a friend, family member, or caretaker of said person, the least we can do as a society and a medical system is make the process of arriving and getting inside, the least of one’s problem.

Alas, the administration behind the scenes at the Cross Cancer Institute has stepped in to show exactly how to make things harder in order to make them “more convenient”. In this case, with the removal of a parking attendant in favor of a kiosk system.

Where patients and/or their families had the option of simply dropping the deposit in the hand of another human-being and going about their likely stressful, painful and draining business, they now have the added stress of dealing with a kiosk and more than likely, having to overpay thanks to uncertainty over how long their stay is going to be. This, in addition to now having to park, visit the kiosk, run back to the car and then in.

You might say I’m going off over something that’s not exactly a terrible inconvenience, but I would strongly disagree.

I’m fortunate to be able to say that the Cross Cancer Institute is a building I’m not familiar with. Hospital visits for familiar reasons however, I’ve done my fair share of. A couple of times as a rattled and frightened patient but mostly as a worried and concerned relative. I can think of a number of scenarios where a situation like this, particularly at a major medical centre where patients can be found transporting themselves, can add unnecessary uncertainty and stress to the daily routine of someone who surely doesn’t need to bear anymore than they already do.

The obvious is, of course, not knowing the length of your appointment and overpaying to avoid having to worry about receiving a ticket or making your way back down to the parkade in the middle of things.

If you’re a relative or a caregiver, having a parking attendant to deal with at the end of the day relieves you from having to leave the patient alone in the vehicle or sitting in a wheelchair while you take care of this annoyance.

It adds more stress to the patient and their caregivers. It may be an easy task running to a kiosk and back again, or multiple times during the day. But if you’re ill, or exhausted, or physically run-down from the effects of facing illness or caring for someone who is ill, it’s an added and unnecessary burden.

To leave you with a personal example, on one trip to a scheduled appointment, a family member forget her purse at home. With a parking attendant on hand, it was a simple fix. They simply left their plate number with the attendant and paid later.

Finally, it’s simply safer for all involved to have a parking attendant on site. It’s a set of eyes on the site, not just for crime prevention, but to provide assistance should a medical incident, or a slip and fall occur within their line of sight.

The bureaucracy and facility administration can certainly study the issue, but in the meantime, put the attendant back in the booth and make these trips to the Cross Cancer Institute just a little bit easier for all involved.

Failing the Frail – Homecare reductions in Alberta

 Alberta Health Services cuts homecare services

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“…assessed by START (Short Term Assessment and Rehabilitation Treatment) to develop a treatment plan to improve her quality of life and allow her to continue living out in the community.”

Glenrose program keeps seniors active

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My headline for this blog post is, of course, recycled from when I wrote last year about the closure of the START program at the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital. The program, highlighted so well in the above quoted article from 2006, was shuttered last year. My father, thanks in no small part to the advocacy of some diligent and committed home-care staff, was one the last patients to benefit from the impressive rehabilitative care offered by the program, and the efforts of staff, a number of whom had been with the program since its very beginnings.

Alas, with little consultation, and wave of approved soundbites in the face of criticism (namely from former patients contacting any local media who would listen), START was quietly closed. Assurances followed that opportunities would be there to treat patients in the community, and that the level of care would not suffer.

Over the past two years, over 5000 additional patients, being treated in their homes, in their communities, have been added to rosters of the Edmonton area’s various home-care providers.

No one asks to suffer from, to endure, and fight to overcome the effects of age, illness, injury, etc. And it’s hard enough finding obstacles and barriers everywhere, and everyday, where healthy individuals may see little more than some steps to climb, a distance to walk, or a curb to step upon. What’s desired is a level of care that enables them to maintain some quality of life, to avoid complications that can lead to setbacks, and hospitalization, and some help for families that struggle to provide and care for a loved one in need.

None of this can truly be appreciated unless it’s been seen or experienced up-close. Unless you’ve witnessed and/or cared for a loved one with medical difficulties, unless you’ve been a nurse, or a therapist, or one of the many talented individuals in the medical field or provide these supports to individuals in their homes, it can be so incredibly easy to under appreciate the issues at hand.

And it would seem that our decision-makers, elected or otherwise, exist detached from the everyday struggles of many Albertans. Perhaps it can be seen in a government that allows a compassionate care bill to die on the order paper. Or maybe in the statement of an AHS official who seems to believe that there’s little connection between a level of care, and the time health-care providers have available to spend with a patient.

“”We are not reducing the level of care for any of our clients. We will be reducing the amount of time spent with them in some instances,” Williamson said.”

 

“I’m sorry Mrs. Johnson, we’re reducing your daily exercise program by 15 minutes, the program that allows you to stay mobile and active”.

“I’m sorry Mr. Jones, we don’t have time to treat all your diabetic sores today, we’ll do the rest tomorrow, or Monday”.

 

The day-to-day life of a homecare worker isn’t just time spent with the patient. Time seems much shorter when a worker new to a patient and unfamiliar with them and their care must deal with the situation. Time which is well used to do more than run through a prescriptive routine, but which can be used to fully assess a patient’s state and condition. Time which is also consumed by travel and the transportation of supplies and equipment.

AHS is once-again acting upon a decision made behind closed doors, without any consultation whatsoever with those affected the most, failing those whose care they have been tasked with.

I challenge AHS to do better. I challenge everyone from senior management to the Minister of Health to set foot in our communities, in our neighbourhoods – to book our community halls and events centres and discuss this issue and many more, face-to-face with everyday Albertans. Listen to those who receive home care, those who provide it to the highest of standards, those who strive to provide the highest level of care to their patients, and those who support and care-for a relative or a spouse in need. It’s called public consultation, it’s called stakeholder involvement, and it shouldn’t take digging by a political party or the media to break an issue out into the open. Transparency, consultation, and open decision should, as a principle, be the standard of this government, and in particular the department with which we entrust our health, our lives, and that of those we care about.

Closure

Update – November 12th.

It’s been about a month since I first sent this to both Honourable members. I’ve not received any replies.

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The following is an open letter which I’ve sent to the Hon. Laurie Hawn (M.P. For Edm-Centre) and Hon. Denis Lebel (Minister responsible for Canada Post), in opposition to the closure of the Mayfield Common Post Office location. It’s a central amenity in an area where reinvestment and services accessible by foot and transit are needed and desired. I consider it’s loss to be a blow to the surrounding communities.

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Hon. Laurie Hawn, M.P. for Edmonton-Centre
Hon. Denis Lebel, Minister responsible for the Canada Post Corporation

October 15th, 2012

Dear Sirs,

The communities of Glenwood, Canora, West Jasper Place and Britannia-Youngstown here in Edmonton’s west-end once comprised the core area of the old Town of Jasper Place. Once a young and growing municipality, the area, through amalgamation, became part of the City of Edmonton. It grew, to a current population of over 16,000, with a lifecycle that’s taken the area to its current state as mature communities looking for revitalization and reinvestment, new housing options and new amenities.

As a long-term member of the community of Glenwood and the Jasper Place area, I’m writing to you today out of concern and opposition to the imminent closure of the Mayfield CRO post office located centrally in the area within Mayfield Common.

Opened just a few years ago, the location, through its helpful staff, has provided a full range of postal services to the 16,000+ residents of the four communities which immediately surround it, and beyond.  Mayfield Common offers residents a centralized location to access, both on foot, by vehicle and through accessible public transit. Companion businesses within the area allow residents to both access the post office and other shopping needs and amenities within the immediate area. Located on Stony Plain Road, the Mayfield CRO is both surrounded by and on a main strip with a growing number of multi-unit residences.

Within the surrounding communities, as of the 2008 census, are over 1,600 residences which do not own a vehicle. As well, as of 2012 civic census, 20% of residences utilize public transit as their primary means of transportation from home to work. Seven percentage points above the city average.

Furthermore, the nearest postal outlet, located within a corner pharmacy at 155 Street and Stony Plain Road, is within a property which has been identified by the City of Edmonton, as one to be acquired and removed in order to accommodate the eventual construction of the City’s West LRT Line.

The importance of local amenities and services, accessible to an area of increasing density and increased demand for walkability and transit access, is obvious. The loss of the Mayfield CRO removes an important local service from some of those who need it the most, while the alternative locations are either distant or fail to offer the same level of services such as P.O. boxes.

As an area resident who makes frequent use of Canada Post’s service, I can’t understate my appreciation for its place in the community. Whether I’m sending mail or packages, arranging a mass mailing for an election campaign, or just buying stamps, the location is local, handy and easy to access, and the experience and help of the staff is most appreciated.

I ask you, I urge you, to help take action to prevent this closure. A single full-service Post Office location may not seem like much on the national scale, but here, at the local level, in an area in need and in want of reinvestment, revitalization and local, walkable, and transit friendly amenities, its presence while not large or flashy, is very much desired, welcomed, and appreciated.

Sincerely,

Jamie Post