Union heads say the provincial and federal governments are dropping the ball when it comes to veterans' care, and it is resulting in the deteriorating quality of life at Deer Lodge Centre
The long-term seniors' living facility in the city houses 60 veterans.
At a media conference Wednesday morning, heads of the Public Service Alliance of Canada and the Union of Veterans' Affairs Employees said staff and budget cuts at Deer Lodge have strained the facility, resulting in lower standards of care, food and living space, less recreation and fewer health supports, such as physiotherapy.
Virginia Vaillancourt, national president of the Union of Veterans' Affairs Employees said during the conference that, over the past two years, the union has approached Deer Lodge administration privately, as well as Cameron Friesen, Manitoba's minister of health, with concerns raised by patients' families.
Vaillancourt said Deer Lodge has ignored the concerns, or "pretends that there's nothing wrong with the services, or the level of care, being provided to patients and veterans at the centre."
Marianne Hladun, prairies regional executive vice-president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, said there has been no response from the provincial government.
Vaillancourt added that the union has also written to and met with federal Minister of Veterans' Affairs Lawrence MacAulay. But Ottawa provides only the funding for veterans' care; Deer Lodge Centre has been under provincial jurisdiction since 1983.
Some families with relatives who live in the facility have approached the unions with concerns, but do not want speak out publicly, fearing they could negatively affect their relatives' care.
Tyrrell Mendis, a photographer whose wife has lived in Deer Lodge for eight years, has a friend who was banned from the facility; he has also been threatened with eviction.
Nevertheless, on Wednesday, he was not afraid to say the quality of life for patients at the centre "has gone down the drain."
In addition to inadequate care and recreation, Mendis cited issues ranging from patients being bathed once a week to a fire alarm/sprinkler system that has needed repairs for two weeks. He also mentioned a recent outbreak of scabies, a skin condition caused by microscopic bugs that can be easily passed on via skin-to-skin contact.
Magali Picard, national executive vice-president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, said Wednesday the situation at Deer Lodge is eerily similar to what she witnessed at a long-term care facility in Quebec.
In 2016, Ste. Anne's Hospital, located in Montreal's West Island, was one of the last veterans hospitals to be transferred from the federal to provincial government. Prior to the transfer, Ste. Anne's was renowned for its high level of care.
But by October 2018, a class-action suit was filed against Quebec on behalf of the 166 veterans in the hospital at the time because the quality of life at the facility had significantly declined.
Picard predicts that Manitoba will face a similar lawsuit from the veterans living at Deer Lodge if the concerns aren't addressed.
Updated on Wednesday, August 7, 2019 at 5:10 PM CDT: Corrects name in photo caption.