The Wawota Save Our Beds Committee (SOBC) made the trek to Regina recently in an attempt to reverse local long-term care bed closures.
The SOBC, which has been active in Wawota since June of this year, following the announced closing of five long-term care beds at the local long-term care facility, Deer View Lodge, travelled to the Legislature on Tuesday, Nov. 16, to continue pressing for a reversal of the bed closures.
Bearing with them a petition that had been circulated in Wawota and surrounding communities, the committee presented the petition, which carries more than 1,400 names, directly to the government.
"The petition we handed over had more than 1,400 names," said SOBC chair Dale Easton. "I think it hit the government a little bit that people in the constituency are upset about it [the bed closures.]"
Delivered at the beginning of the legislative meeting by the member for Saskatoon/Eastview and NDP health critic Judy Junor, the petition became a point of debate during the question period.
Speaking to the issue first MLA Trent Wotherspoon, the NDP finance critic, asked about the funding concerns in relation to money given to a private long-term care centre in Saskatoon.
"We know this government has signed a $27 million guarantee with Amicus," Wotherspoon said. "To the minister, how much taxpayers' money has this government put at risk while short-sightedly cutting beds in Wawota to save a measly $100,000?"
"Mr. Speaker, in 16 years under the NDP government, they never built a new long-term care bed to add to the complement of long-term care beds in this province," the minister of health Don McMorris responded later. "But not only did they not build any new long-term care beds, they closed 52 hospitals across this province, Mr. Speaker, one of them in Wawota."
"And what they also did is close 136 beds, long-term care beds, in the last five years of their government," McMorris said in closing. "We'll take no lessons from those members opposite."
The debate around health issues, and the Wawota situation in particular, continued on for a considerable period of time.
In response to another set of questions, McMorris said, "Those decisions were made by the health regions. . . , it isn't through the directive of me. . . It is the health region that makes those decisions, Mr. Speaker, as in Sun Country."
"From what we understood of it, the decisions are being left up to the health regions themselves," Easton said of the debate. "We did see one bright spot from the debates though."
"Two communities, Nokomis and Neilburg, both had services cut," Easton said. "Nokomis had a lab shut down, and Neilburg its ambulance service."
"Both of those communities began petitions and letter-writing campaigns, and in the end the decisions were reversed," Easton said. "So that gives us some hope that our efforts will eventually get some results."
In a previous story about a meeting between the Wawota SOBC and Sun Country's board, Easton is quoted as saying, "A lot of the board members weren't there."
In response to this, The Observer was contacted by Sun Country board chair Sharon Bauche, who wished to point out that in fact only one board member was absent at the meeting between the two bodies.
Held on the day of a heavy storm, the board member in question had been unable to make the journey to Weyburn for safety reasons, and had contacted the board in advance to advise of the member's inability to attend.