On Oct. 14, from 7 to 9 p.m., the Lakeland Communities Health Advisory Council held a virtual Community Conversation. It was introduced as an opportunity “to learn more about Health System Integration Initiatives whose goal is to help people of all ages be as healthy, well and independent as they can be in their homes and communities.”
Participants heard about a program in Lac La Biche being well into its development and implementation under the auspices of a group of volunteer community activists. The primary goal of the program is to awaken the community to how the community itself is capable of meeting some of the needs fostered by the challenges of the COVID pandemic and other generators of stress including the collapse of many small operators in the energy sector.
The combination of these two factors has resulted in significant and abrupt changes to the economies of many Lakeland communities and the living conditions of their residents. Most of the virtual presentation was a presentation by Dr. Richard Lewanczuk, Senior Medical Director with Alberta Health Services (AHS).
The presentation reacquainted many of us with how Albertans are being called to address the major stresses of our time, that being the loneliness and depression being extrapolated into medical issues which normally follow. While social isolation among seniors is always present in some form or other, the mandates of maintaining distance/social isolation have caused a very significant increase in the stress factor faced by the population in general.
For seniors, access to facilities and activities which they rely on to combat general loneliness are no longer readily available. While social media can be the source of some relief, it is not a replacement for the personal and physical presence so vital for many to sustain sound mental health. Dr. Lewanczuk stated that he is seeking community input as AHS prioritizes community-based health.
As a long-time volunteer in my community, I have witnessed numerous programs come and go whose intent was exactly that, an effort to make life more pleasant and healthy for its residents. Volunteers wear out and during these times a resurgence of volunteering is a must. Finally, I find it ironic that we are asked to help find ways to eliminate or at least lessen the stress factors of citizens of all ages, while the Ministry of Health - who is ultimately responsible for AHS - has created and continues to foster stress endured by front line health workers and doctors.
Announcing many changes it will mandate is compounding the degree of stress already being experienced by our community care givers. It is too much to expect leadership from a government whose morality and compassion are based simply on monetary values. Premier Kenney and flock, seek to attract business to Alberta, a noble idea! But who will want to reside in a province where heath care is relegated to a cash-cow for some and especially in rural Alberta, grossly inferior for the hoi polloi?
I would like to commend Clare Gauvreau, publisher of Lakeland This Week for the comments and articles she has published. The UCP are counting on us letting up on the issues which can greatly impair the health care our community deserves. Clare is doing her part. Are you?
Paul-Emile “Paul” Boisvert,
A 75-year resident of St. Paul