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Standing up for Seniors

Yesterday in the Legislature I  asked the Minister of Health questions about the care of seniors in personal care homes in Manitoba.   I specfically called for the Minister to increase the training and staffing requirements for personal care homes in Manitoba to bring them up to date.   My questions, the Minister's comments and the Speaker's interjection are below: 

Personal-Care-Home Improvements - Need for Upgrades to Standards and Training

Hon. Jon Gerrard  (River Heights): Madam Speaker, we're very concerned this government is not adapting to the reality of caring for seniors who are living longer. Seniors living in our personal-care homes today have much more challenging health-care conditions than those who were in similar homes even five years ago, and yet the staffing formula, or minimal personnel requirement, is over 20 years old. Too few care aides and nurses are adequately trained to look after residents with dementia and multiple chronic health conditions.
      I ask on behalf of many–in particular, Dolores Minkus-Hofney [phonetic], who is in the gallery today: Will the minister increase training and staffing requirements for personal-care homes in Manitoba to bring them up to date?

Hon. Cameron Friesen (Minister of Health, Seniors and Active Living): I thank the member for a question about how this government is working to expand services and expand capacity when it comes to personal-care homes.
      This morning I had the opportunity–joined by the member for Steinbach (Mr. Goertzen) as well as other members of the House–in Steinbach to officially turn the sod for a brand new 143-bed personal-care home.

Madam Speaker: The honourable member for River Heights, on a supplementary question.

Mr. Gerrard: Madam Speaker, it's not enough to build new spaces. We must provide excellent care for seniors already in homes.
            One child of a personal-care home resident said: "It was easier to watch my dad die in the personal hair comb–help care home than to watch him live in the personal-care home."
      This is not a one-off occurrence. Nurses and aides are often so overworked that they don't have time to help patients with basic needs like making it to a washroom or being fed on time. Fresh food has been replaced with frozen. Quality nutrition and being treated with dignity are basic elements of health care. Quality food is one of the real pleasures for [residents]

Madam Speaker: The member's time has expired.

Mr. Friesen: I thank the member for that preamble. It gives me an opportunity to say that last week I was able to attend, personally, the official opening of the Alzheimer Centre of Excellence at Riverview Health Centre in Winnipeg.
      This is another one of the facilities, like the Steinbach new rest haven home, that will feature not hospital-like environments for people, but home-like environments for people in neighbourhood-style approaches on the most recent data, using best practices–all the ways that we are driving forward better understanding of how to provide appropriate spaces for our seniors when they need those spaces.

Madam Speaker: The honourable member for River Heights, on a final supplementary.

Mr. Gerrard: Madam Speaker, I heard from relatives of personal-care-home residents that they were told, over and over again, that their loved ones just came here to die. Relatives are regularly angry, frustrated, disappointed and shocked at the care their loved ones now received in personal-care homes in too many places in Manitoba.
            It is our Liberal belief that seniors, toward the end of their lives, should be able to live where they are cared for well and with respect.
      Does the minister believe that personal-care homes are just places for seniors to die, or is this government willing to invest to make sure residents have the best possible quality of life in their last few days, months and years?

Mr. Friesen: Madam Speaker, once again, the member's style is regrettable; it's a personal insult to everyone who works hard every day in personal-care homes to provide exceptional care for our seniors.  That member should apologize.

An Honourable Member: You're the one who should apologize.

Madam Speaker: Oh, oh. Order, please. Order, please.
            I would ask the table to stop the clock, please.
            I have, on numerous occasions, had to stand in this House when we are experiencing heckling or language and behaviours that are unacceptable to the deliverance of democracy in a province, and the member for River Heights (Mr. Gerrard) has just yelled across the House in a very, very inappropriate way to a member across. And I would ask the member, because what he did was extremely rude and inappropriate.
            And I know there's a lot of passion around these issues, but that does not allow us to go down that road of poor behaviour in here like that, because that's not going to solve any problems or it's not going to enhance progress in democracy, nor is it a good example for our kids or any of the guests that happen to be watching.
      I would ask the member for River Heights (Mr. Gerrard) to apologize for his outburst.

Mr. Gerrard: Madam Speaker, I will not apologize after what the minister said.

Madam Speaker: I would urge the member for River Heights (Mr. Gerrard) to give this some very serious concern and to give some serious thought to what he has just done and to my request.
      Certainly, if he wants to serve his constituents best, his presence in the Chamber is certainly a better way to serve his constituents than to be away from this Chamber and other opportunities in this House to represent his constituents. I know the issue can be a very passionate one. We all do care about a lot of those issues, but there are rules that are important and rules that we must abide by in this House, and I would urge the member.
      I will give him one more chance because I think he was elected to serve his constituents here and, in respect to his constituents, he may want to give some thought and rise in this House and apologize for his outburst.

Mr. Gerrard: Madam Speaker, after what the minister said and accused me of, I will not apologize.

Madam Speaker: I will give the member a third and final chance to apologize to this House–withdraw his comments and apologize his House. And I would ask the member to do that.
      This is the third and final opportunity he will get.

Mr. Gerrard: Madam Speaker, the minister accused me of insulting seniors when I'm standing up for them.
      I will not apologize for standing up for seniors.


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