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OPINION: New arenas or long term care facilities

'There is an aging human tidal wave that is about to break upon and overwhelm Ontario’s present Health Care System'

Sometime ago, I attended a function put on by the Alzheimer Society of North Bay. There I sat and listened to some speeches concerning dementia and the impact of this dreadful disease on our society. One dire warning has stuck with me to this day. Those speakers warned us listening, of a tsunami…an aging human tidal wave that is about to break upon and overwhelm Ontario’s present Health Care System.

They explained that in addition to all of the normal health problems associated in dealing with our increasingly aging population, many would have dementia and require LTC. They explained that although there were some promising drugs, there was no cure. The best they could hope to do is slow the disease’s progress with drugs. The same is true for today. They also explained that our society would have to make some hard choices in dealing with this reality.

Our local school boards are also dealing with this aging population. Due to declining enrolments, they are being forced to close some City schools and amalgamate others. This is happening here, now.

At present, our City has two LTC facilities, the 238 bed, Cassellholme (City run) and the 142 bed, Waters Edge Care Community (Privately run).

The City is soon to reconstruct its well run, but aging Cassellholme, built in 1962. The City is addressing this, not necessarily because it wants to but more because it was ordered to by the Province. It is expensive to run an LTC, yet they are doing a good job. Make no mistake, however; there is a very pressing need for LTC within our City. As of August 2017, Cassellholme had a wait list of 175 and Waters Edge a wait list of 87.   

Now enter into this mix, the need to repair, or replace the West Ferris Arena. arena. WFA has some critical needs that certainly need addressing. The City however is floating the idea that it would like to replace the arena with some larger configuration, elsewhere, in the city. They have cited the expensive repair, or improved operational efficiencies of a new multi-ice surface. Combining city and provincial funding to get a new arena for little more than the cost of a repaired one. Also, there is a benefit to local business when hosting large sporting events. So this rink is not necessarily being built for our declining youth population but more to generate business. All good points, I guess.

Here is the rub, does an arena expansion address the tsunami? Is this a responsible expenditure at this time? Might not the more prudent course of action be to repair the existing WFA? Or if it is proven that this cannot be done, replace the WFA in kind? You do not have to believe me with respect to the tidal wave. Ask any LTC coordinator, ask Dr. Grant McKercher for he was one of those speakers. Check out the aging demographics of our city. Examine those numbers.

I’m asking our city and surrounding municipalities to invest more in LTC. Instead of just reconstructing Cassellholme, provide for more LTC beds. These additional LTC beds won’t be cheap. They may never provide the colourful entertainment value, or pop and flash of new arena. So, as you are glad handing some visiting movie or hockey celebrity…I want you to carefully remember, “winter is coming”.

For those in agreement with this position, please contact your elected council and share your concerns.               

Ephrem Gallant, North Bay