A LETTER TO CANADIAN CENTRE FOR POLICY ALTERNATIVES
MYRTLE MACDONALD—VOICE FILE PHOTO
t 97 years of age I am healthy and a volunteer in several programs and service groups, but in poverty.
What I have written here is valuable information because I worked as a professional nurse in 6 provinces from coast to coast in Canada and 20 years overseas. In December 1988, I settled in BC to help my aging mother and two disabled siblings. My work experience included direct care, administration, classroom and clinical teaching of nurses in hospitals, universities and public health, and of Community Health Workers in Saskatchewan, India, Pakistan, Lesotho (southern Africa) and Hmong refugee leaders in a camp in Thailand.
I have had experience with indigenous peoples in Canada and overseas, medical, surgical, ophthalmology, orthopedic, infants and young mothers, psychiatric nursing and much else. I have a B.Sc. Nursing from U of Alberta and an M.Sc. A (Nursing, Research and Social Sciences) from McGill University, plus various certificates.
The following government actions are urgent: (national, provincial, regional and municipal)
1. Seniors and Disabled People:
1.1. Double or triple the government funding of Better at Home. Half price for a Homemaker once a month costs me $ 28. Funding is lacking for twice a month, let alone for weekly or daily. Private companies do not provide reliable training for Caregivers, yet most are costly.
1.2. Better at Home provides an Electrician or a Plumber at half price but not for less than two hours. Most maintenance jobs do not require professional skill, and do not require two hours. Plumbers will not service a ceiling fan, and Electricians will not repair a dripping tap. Therefore:
1.3. Create college short courses for Maintenance Caregivers. Most old people living alone have no relatives or friends who can anticipate or repair malfunctioning fans, A/C, air purifiers, vents, washing machine and dryer, CO and smoke detectors or broken curtain rods. Care of a few herbs and flowers at the front and/or back door could be on their curriculum. The drive needs cleaning or clearing of snow.
1.4. Handy Dart: needs to be booked two days ahead, is often too early or late picking up the passenger for an appointment and late for the return trip. That means waste of time. Don't assume that seniors have plenty of time. They are volunteers, writers and care givers. I have had a disabled sister and disabled brother to help through the years. They have had deadlines and busy lives too.
1.5. Taxi Saver tickets are much better time-wise, but only $40 ($80 value) are available monthly.
1.6. Privately owned Scooters are not safe or convenient. Sidewalks are bumpy and have light and sign poles in the middle. Scooters cannot climb or descend more than one inch and will not move when there is snow. Bike lanes can be used but there are few. If a shop does not allow a scooter inside thieves steal a basket or the contents. I had a metal rack stolen in Chilliwack Hospital while I was being seen by a specialist in the Seniors Care office.
1.7. Most Assisted Living care givers are casual or part time: unfair for them, and the residents.
1.8. Hearing Aids: My brother and late sister have required hearing aids. The cost was thousands of dollars and they had to be rebuilt and/or replaced in 3 to 4 years' time, and again cost thousands. Staff in Assisted Living and Residential Care are not trained to maintain them. A few gave unskilled help.
The hearing disabled person has to make an appointment, get a taxi and go to the office down town. Most do not have courage, motivation or taxi tickets to do so often enough. Many people living in Assisted Living or Residential Care stop using their hearing aids and manage somehow by lip reading or pretending to hear. In Chilliwack there are about 10 different hearing aid companies. They waste money on full and half page ads in the newspaper. A tiny ad would be enough and the money be used to hire visiting hearing technologists. I hunted for a company that does home visiting and found only one, Miracle Ear. They are good but short staffed.
1.9. Subsidized people in Assisted Living do not receive enough personal allowance. $300 a month is not enough to cover costs of telephone, hydro, TV, foot care, hair dresser, dental care, hearing aids, clothing and shoes, incontinence supplies, toilet articles, laundry detergent, high dusting, carpet cleaning and travel to appointments and to the occasional concert or special event. My late sister’s incontinence supplies cost $200 per month. I read flyers for half price sales at Shoppers Drug Mart and London Drug, but the right size was often not yet on the shelves or sold out before I got there.
2. Long Wait Times in ER and for Surgery
2.1. A serious shortage of Psychiatrists and they are under paid compared to surgeons. Mentally agitated people cannot wait 6 hours for a psychiatrist. Psychiatric care in both hospital and the community is very seriously under-funded. Many people with Schizophrenia, Bipolar or Schizoaffective Disorder, especially after they are 65, no longer receive group therapy, or have a Case Manager (Psychiatric Nurse cum Social Worker) or a Psychiatrist. They are referred to their GP who is unaware of the group resources available and necessary for adequate care. There should be continuity of follow up at least twice a year by a psychiatrist who has known the individuals for a long time.
2.2. Funds have decreased for the Schizophrenia Society to hire skilled educators to teach their excellent courses for family members, and to provide Respite Care for family members. The burden on siblings, spouses and aging parents is extremely difficult, especially when lacking skills.
2.3. A Serious Shortage of Anaesthetists and RNs. Many operating theatres are kept closed. e.g. My brother had a fractured leg. His orthopedic surgeon kept booking his surgery ever day for six days, which meant fasting all day until 7 PM, while waiting for an operating room and anaesthetist.
2.4. Physiotherapy and Rehabilitation: There should be three times as many Physiotherapists as are currently hired, able to treat pre and post-operative orthopedic patients several times every day, and weekends. The Rehabilitation unit in Chilliwack hospital several years ago did excellent work. Now, although they still have good equipment, and facilities, they lack physiotherapists. After hip surgery patients are transferred to an inaccessible small town unit for rehabilitation, but there for about two hundred patients, there is only one physiotherapist.
2.5. Occupational Therapists should be hired and allowed to initiate programs using their skills.
2.6. Physiotherapy in the Community: Visiting physiotherapists are lacking. Funding for private clinics is for about 5 visits. To accommodate more patients the physiotherapists treat two or three patients at once electronically in adjoining cubicles, rather than with skilled exercises.
3. Protecting the Environment: Use of cars and trucks causes costly road repairs and widening.
3.1. The air is polluted by commuting to work and
3.2. Massive trucks bringing fruit and vegetables from California and Mexico, increase smog, road repairs and chronic illness. Locally grown cost more than imported. Therefore increase taxes on trucks and levy tariffs on imported produce. Widening highways soon causes more grid lock.
3.2. Enable and promote Inter-provincial Marketing of Locally Grown vegetables and fruit. Create marketing projects and provide mobile cold storage and freezing all year round.
3.3. Canadian family farmers cannot make a living. Teens enjoy farming but they and parents have to get second careers. Hire agronomists to help farmers produce saleable produce all year.
3.4. Passenger trains and public transport are lacking so farm families need three vehicles per family, which increases smog. Therefore build tram-train networks. Don’t neglect rural people.
3.5. Building an 8 km SkyTrain costs four times as much as 100 km of light railway, using existing right of way on rail lines now used only for freight. In Europe scheduling both is well done.
4. Creating Good Jobs:
4.1. Hire Anaesthetists, RNs, Physiotherapists. Hire British/European firms to install passenger rail.
4.2. Greatly increase employment in alternate energy production. In Europe and even in China these technologies are growing fast, replacing fossil fuels. Tanker trains and pipe lines from Alberta to sell crude oil, natural gas or coal should not be increased, just made safer, to avoid spills.
4.3. Building Contractors underpay/treat their skilled workers unfairly: should provide tools or replace those stolen; should provide transportation /provide funds when personal vehicles need repairs.
4.4. All laborers should be in a University-College Journeyman course and be sponsored by an employer. Standards of Community Colleges should be kept high and accredited.
4.5. Many University graduates with a degree are unemployed. All should be sponsored by an employer during their education. Many have to live doubled up or with parents, and delay marriage.
4.6. A hierarchy of Vice presidents, CEO, Directors, Administrators, supervisors and foremen with high salaries and bonuses is a waste. Skills they had at one time get out of touch and outdated.
4.7. Give employees shares in the company and authority to elect peers (professionals and technologists) for two years of leadership while continuing on the job.
4.8. Pension Plans and RRSP should be combined, transferable and not optional.
4.9. Casual, part time jobs and contracts exploit clients; employees lack sick leave/vacation pay.
4.10. Require university professors to do scholarly research and work part time in their profession.
5. Rising Cost of Living: Some answers to this problem:
5.1. Make recognition of professional credentials reciprocal between provinces: Why repeat exams for a profession? or a drivers licence? I did mine in AB, ON, SK, NS and BC.
5.2 Enable pickers and mobile rail car markets with cold storage. Why do strawberries, cherries and peaches rot in the fields because they cannot be sold in another province or locally?
5.3. Grocery stores raise prices on packaged, tinned and fresh produce by 25% to 100%, faster than inflation of about 2%. e.g. In 2017 we could buy a 795 ml tin of tomatoes for 99 cents or $1.29. Now half size tins cost $2.29 or more. The problem is foreign ownership of supermarkets, but why do Canadian owned grocery stores charge even higher prices? They can get away with it.
5.3. Costs of medications in Canada and USA are the highest in the world due to industrial power.
5.4. Many new pharmacies have opened in the past 5 years. There are about 30 in Chilliwack for a population of 120,000. Ten would be enough. There are not enough qualified Pharmacists.
6. Affordable Child Care:
6.1. About half of Canadian children live in poverty.
6.2. Most jobs are part time or casual. Mothers have two or three part time jobs to afford child care.
6.3. Income tax refunds for music lessons or sports equipment cannot be accessed, so make refunds up front, not the following year. Gift many parents who earn too little to pay income tax.
7. Affordable Housing: No one is building wisely for the underemployed lower middle class.
7.1. Construction companies should not be allowed to build apartments and houses with unnecessary space and luxury. The rich are getting richer and the poor poorer.
7.2. Apartments should have three or four modest bedrooms and always two small bathrooms. The kitchen can double as family room and dining room. Laundry, deep freeze, storage space are essential.
7.3. Rich and poor should not be obliged to live segregated, but be welcome in the same neighbor-hoods. All can pass as middle class by having an education and good second hand clothing.
7.4. Every apartment building should have two or more subsidized apartments, anonymous to protect the dignity of the poor.
7.5. All apartment buildings should have secure entrances. In Chilliwack there is a Crime Free Multiple Housing Committee that supports landlords and tenants.
7.6. Minimum income needs to be adequate for rent, food, education, telephone, recreation and shoes. People who are unemployed or under-employed can only find housing by doubling up with friends, strangers or parents, so keeping apartment buildings locked and secure becomes difficult.
7.7. Housing allowances of $375 for mentally ill and other disabled people must be doubled.
Obesity and Chronic Illnesses:
8.1. Canada’s Food Laws newly revised are quite good, except for the following:
8.2. Labels on foods are slyly dishonest, in small print and hard to understand. To print “Contains vegetable oil” hides that it is hydrogenated, which is useless for health and healing and causes obesity.
8.3. Many foods are Genetically Modified, not proven safe, yet not mentioned on labels.
8.4. The amount of sugar and glucose-fructose added to food has been greatly increased. We get ill because almost everything is sweetened. Eat sugar free cereals and oatmeal. Add fresh or frozen fruit.
8.5. Food processing removes the germ and bran which are the main source of good nutrition. Take good quality fish oil. In a slow cooker soak and cook whole beans or peas. When soft, mash with a stick blender and add herbs, tomatoes, chillies, etc. Don’t buy tinned vegetables and soups. They are not nutritious. Fruit juices are stale, fake and not nutritious.
8.6. Organically grown food is too expensive for most people. Another category could cost less: “Herbicide and Pesticide Free”
8.7. Ensure integrity in government Food and Drug departments. Allow whistle blowing.
8.8. Weekly mobile markets of fresh or frozen locally grown fruit, vegetables and herbs all year.
Again thank you Shannon Daub for selecting me for a Grassroots Poll on Vital Canadian Issues and for your four page letter. I condensed my research on four pages. Please share my experiences with many.
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