First of all, I would like to introduce myself. My name is Susan Salmon. I was born in Neepawa Hospital, grew up in Plumas, attended elementary school in Plumas, and high school in Gladstone. I went on to become a teacher in Pine Creek School Division, marry my husband who teaches in Beautiful Plains School Division, live in the RM of Langford, and have four children who attend school in Neepawa. I feel that it is necessary that people understand from where I am coming.
As an educator, I totally understand the government's decision over the last few years on the importance of keeping schools open in small communities. A small school cannot close unless the people of that community have voted that they wish to close the school. Everyone is entitled to an education within their community. Education for all is important.
It completely shocks me that we do not take this same view with our health care, and ultimately our lives. Apparently, over the past couple of years our Regional Health Authority has created a Joint Hospital Committee to push the plan forward for two hospitals to close and build a new hospital somewhere between Neepawa and Minnedosa. Very soon our town councils and rural municipalities will be signing on their support for this joint venture. They feel that this needs to be done quickly before the next election. I have many questions about this.
What research has the ARHA and the joint hospital committee done in preparing for this major decision?
They could say that they compared our situation to that of the joint hospital located between Morden and Winkler. I'm sorry, but that is like comparing elephants to goldfish. All it takes is to look at a map of Manitoba to see that Neepawa and Minnedosa are about 30 km (18 miles) apart, and Winkler and Morden are about 10 km (6 miles) apart. You can almost see Winkler on the horizon when driving out of Morden. This distance does not compare, especially when it comes to time during an emergency. Let's also look at the size of the compared communities. If you combined the population of both Neepawa and Minnedosa together, you would not even make the size of Morden, the smaller community to Winkler. Winkler, by the way, has recently been proclaimed a city. Both Morden and Winkler are continually growing. They may eventually grow to join one day. Is that even possible for Neepawa and Minnedosa? We would never get a hospital with the size and amenities as the one in the south. Government bases its funding on population.
How is the ARHA considering proper health care, especially emergency care, for our surrounding communities?
Once again, take a moment to look at a map of Manitoba. Take note of the hospital symbols on the map in our area compared to other regions in Manitoba. Do we really want to increase the distance to a serviceable hospital in our area?
Some might argue that we would at least be getting a bigger facility with more services if we did join. Yes, but to whose expense? How many lives will be sacrificed for that hospital?
What are the plans of the ARHA for providing immediate care for those in a serious, life threatening emergency situation?
My father died of a heart attack at home in Plumas. My mother and brothers performed CPR on him until the ambulance arrived. Working at their best, it took the ambulance at least 45 minutes to arrive and another 20 minutes to transport him to the hospital in Gladstone to merely pronounce him dead when he arrived. I will never stop wondering if the outcome would have been different if they lived closer to the hospital.
After my father's death, my mother chose to move and retire in Neepawa because of the reliability of the hospital. Many people from surrounding communities choose to move to Neepawa because of its excellent health care within the community.
My family lives about 10 minutes out of Neepawa. Our youngest daughter has a severe life threatening seizure disorder that requires her to take three types of medication everyday to control her seizures. However, lengthy seizures that will not stop still occur, requiring us to get her to the hospital immediately. We can not wait for an ambulance, we transport her ourselves. Time before medical help decides her outcome. It had been suggested to us years ago by our neurologist to move to Winnipeg, because of the seriousness of her seizures. We have experienced Winnipeg's emergency care which involves a whole list of protocol before treatment. We chose to stay in Neepawa because of the excellence of the medical staff who all know our daughter personally, and are ready for her as soon as we run through the doors of the hospital.
I did not chose to share these personal stories about myself for those reading to feel sorry for me and speak up on my behalf, but rather for people to make a personal connection of situations that may affect them, their parents, and their children.
What have our councils done to make sure that a joint hospital is what the general public wants?
They could say that they attended the public meeting back in 2007 when the proposal first came to the public. My husband and I attended the meeting in Neepawa to find that it was set up to be very one sided. Many people were ready to speak up right off the bat in support of the proposed hospital; however the scoffers, groaners and eye-rollers were also ready to respond to those who opposed. The general public will not publicly voice their opposition to something unless they are personally and seriously connected with the issue, as well as being brave enough to speak up for fear of being ostracized. Judging by the huge number of people who attended this meeting, many people are obviously concerned about this issue. People often don't attend public meetings if they feel it won't affect them.
Our councils could say that they have read the local papers. There have been some articles and editorials, as well as letters to the editor in support of the joint hospital. I have read few letters opposing. I commend Cecil Pittman on his courage to openly voice his opposition to the joint hospital through the papers. I have never met Mr. Pittman, but every time I read one of his letters I know that the very next week someone is ready to jump and attack him. It is not wonder why not many people publicly voice their opposition. It is far easier for us to jump on the bandwagon or not say anything at all, rather than speak up for something in which we believe.
Have you been contacted by a councilor to find your opinion?
We certainly have not. Don't wait for them to contact you, they won't. An issue like health care is critical and affects us all. Please take time to think about this issue and speak up.
Bigger is not always better. We could build huge educational institutions with every course offered that we could hope for our children, and close all of the small schools in surrounding areas. One reason why we don't do this is because we would never want our children riding the bus that long. Now let's think about this in an emergency situation. Do we really want to build a hospital out in the middle of wherever, where everyone is required to drive a distance, and time is truly vital?
Many people passively sit back and don't make a personal connection to how much an issue as important as this may affect them. Health care is everyone's concern, and we should all be given the chance to say what we want. Providing a vote for the general public would be the right thing to do. Everyone is entitled to proper health care in their community. Emergency care for all is important.
You don't know what you had, until its gone!