River Heights constituency report
Jon Gerrard is Liberal MLA for River Heights.
Recent articles of Jon Gerrard
Throughout the pandemic, I have received concerns from constituents about home-care services provided by the province.
The concerns stem, in part, from changes made over 10 years ago, which made home care less flexible to the individual needs of those it was designed to assist. In more recent years, the concerns we hear relate to the inadequacy of services, problems with home care being delivered in a timely manner (for example, accurate mealtimes for a person with diabetes) and the poor ability to tailor services to the individual conditions of people receiving services.
It is imperative that we have improvements in home-care services, including in staffing and in training. I am aware of an individual who, in the last two years, had to be placed in a personal care home because home care was inadequate and not reliable.
I have heard from seniors that vital home-care visits for medication, feeding and hygiene are simply being skipped due to staffing issues, and in some cases, people are going days in between visits.
In River Heights and in Manitoba, we are caught up in the COVID-19 pandemic. It is a critical time, with the Omicron variant coming at a point when Manitoba’s health-care system is greatly stressed just dealing with the fourth wave. We cannot wait for a report from a task force, which was only appointed a couple weeks ago, when we need action right now.
Nurses are burned out beyond belief, with short staffing levels and high acuity caseloads. This needs to be better acknowledged. There needs to be a major effort to provide better working conditions for nurses, to achieve the staffing levels required for high quality care, and to ensure routine medical and surgical care can happen even during the pandemic.
In the last two weeks, Manitoba Liberals have called for a series of measures to address the current situation. Manitoba needs free rapid covid tests to be made readily available through pharmacies, libraries, liquor marts, malls, and other readily accessible community locations. We need to make vaccines mandatory for workers in long-term care. We must enhance vaccination requirements for children. Businesses and organizations should disclose their vaccination policies for staff and customers so that clients can make informed decisions.
For too long, communication about public health orders have not been clear. A messaging campaign to directly challenge misinformation around vaccines and public health orders would help with misinformation. Last, the approval of monoclonal antibodies (MABS) to reduce symptoms for unvaccinated individuals who fall ill with COVID-19 would likely reduce deaths in the province owing to COVID-19. This would also reduce hospital and ICU needs.
Vision and ophthalmology are important. Prompt attention to eye surgeries is essential.
I was recently approached to look into this by a River Heights constituent. Retinal detachment surgery is urgent, and the procedure is to prevent irreversible damage to the retinal (nerve) tissue and permanent vision loss.
Cataract surgery, in contrast, is viewed as elective. But, if left too long, cataracts can be difficult to remove and the surgery can become complicated. Delayed surgery can take longer and may require further surgery; it may cost more and have slow or poor vision recovery. Doing cataract surgery in a timely manner can avoid these unnecessary difficulties.
Most cataract surgeries are in people over age 65. In an older person, poor eyesight can lead to a fall which can result in a broken hip or head injury; these can be life threatening or life altering. I know this well as both my parents suffered from declining vision as they aged. Both had life-limiting falls and broken hips. In both cases, the declining vision almost certainly contributed to the falls.
With children in River Heights back in school, we are all concerned about their safety.
We all want to make sure they do not get the COVID-19 virus, also known as SARS-CoV-2. For children old enough to be vaccinated, getting vaccinated needs to be a priority. For those less than 12 years of age, other measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19 are needed, although it appears a vaccine may be available in the near future for those under 12.
There has been a lot of talk about the need to improve ventilation in schools as well as mask use. An evaluation of the effect of improving ventilation and wearing masks was done in schools in the U.S. state of Georgia and the findings from this study are helpful.
The study was done in November and December of 2020. This was a time before the appearance of the delta variant, but the findings nevertheless give us an indication of the importance of addressing ventilation in schools.
This is the first year, across Canada, that we recognized Aug. 1 as Emancipation Day.
On Aug. 1, 1834, slavery was abolished in the British Empire. As there were certain limits (people over six years of age were designated as apprentices and required to work 40 hours a week), full emancipation was not achieved until four years later on Aug. 1, 1838.
Historian Marcel Trudel estimated there were about 4,200 enslaved people in Canada between 1671 and 1831, and that initially two-thirds were Indigenous and one-third of African descent. Toward the end of this period, with an increased number of people coming to Canada with slaves, those of African descent outnumbered those who were Indigenous. It is an all too often forgotten or unmentioned part of our history.
In River Heights, we have many residents of Indigenous or of African descent. Emancipation Day has a special meaning for them. It is also an important opportunity for all Canadians to become more aware of this part of our history. Emancipation of slaves meant freedom to all, freedom from enslavement for those who were slaves and enhanced dignity and respect for everyone.
On June 17, I hosted a Zoom town hall meeting to discuss better options for improving education in Manitoba than those presented in Bill 64.
It is important to not just criticize Bill 64, but to present alternatives which will be effective and are needed in Manitoba to improve our education system. Some of these approaches are already being used in Manitoba thanks to innovative school boards, superintendents, principals and teachers who have focused on improving education.
Much of this innovation and improvement would, sadly, be lost under Bill 64.
Our first two panelists, Doug Adams and Heather Shelton, are teachers who have worked in a very diverse school in Brandon.
The Assiniboine Indian Residential School on Academy Road operated from 1958 to 1973.
It ran from 1958 to 1967 with an annual enrollment of about 100 youth from First Nations communities across Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and northwestern Ontario. From 1967 to 1973, it served as a hostel where students stayed while attending area high schools.
In recent days, Canadians have been shocked to learn of the 215 children’s bodies found in unmarked graves near Kamloops, B.C. Led by Indigenous people, the search of other sites across Canada will continue, possibly including the Assiniboine residential school site.
Fifteen years ago, in the spring of 2006, I visited the Brandon Friendship Centre, where I saw a plaque which honoured children who stayed at the Brandon residential school between 1896 and 1923 and who never went home.
In my work as an MLA, I am finding that the COVID pandemic is creating major challenges for youth and young adults in River Heights.
When your world is turned upside down and you can’t do sports like you usually do, when education is often virtual, when you can’t hug people (except for your close family) and when you can’t just get together with a group of friends, life feels very unfair.
Everyone is different. For some, spending lots of time on Zoom or Teams or another video conference platform is OK. Many feel that Zoom can’t compare to experiencing life in person. For some it is easy to accommodate being in class with a mask on and physically distancing, while for others it is just not working.
Some have a family member they can go outside with for a walk or a run, or play tennis. Others don’t. Some have an outdoor or sport opportunity nearby that can still be played in small groups — like throwing a Frisbee, hitting a golf ball or playing tennis. Others don’t.
Soon, we’ll begin a new year. After a year in which our lives were dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic, we enter 2021 with a number of vaccines and a light at the end of the tunnel to signal the end of the pandemic. The end will not come quickly, but it will come in 2021.
How that light glows and grows will depend on us. We have lost too many of our loved ones and too many of our elders, while seniors in personal care homes remain in danger from the spread of COVID-19. Too many families are now struggling. Some who rely on medications to manage diseases like diabetes are having to face the difficult choice of getting their medications or buying food. And so many of our local business owners are suffering as a result of the lockdowns and restrictions that have been put in place during the pandemic.
We must do all we can to help each other get safely through this difficult time, even as we begin to plan with more hope for the renewal which is to come.
In River Heights, we can begin to look forward to our local businesses fully reopening so that we can walk in and talk with our friends and neighbours while we shop. We look forward to being able to visit more freely with others and resume the socializing that is so important to our mental well-being. We look forward to when our community centres, churches, synagogues and temples will be available for everyone to worship, play, and come together as a community.
Early learning and child care are a cornerstone in Manitoba today.
Residents of River Heights reach out to me on a regular basis regarding the various difficulties they face. Access to this service is vital when both parents are working and child care is needed for people to have jobs and for our economy to flourish.
For example, as children in Manitoba begin returning to school, access to child care is essential for teachers. If teachers cannot access the child care needed to work, the result is a shortage of teachers.
Quality in child care and early childhood education is as important as quantity. Consistency in child care providers helps with the attachment of children. This, plus consistency in the emphasis on education, helps a child’s development and their readiness for school. Though play is an essential part of a child’s ability to enjoy an experience in child care, it is also an opportunity for learning and for the development of social skills. For this reason, my colleagues Dougald Lamont, Cindy Lamoureux and I believe that putting child care and early childhood education under the provincial Department of Education merits serious consideration — to stabilize and enhance the supports for it, and for the linkage to later education. There are several high-quality early learning centres right here in River Heights that need support.
Personal care homes have been at the front line of the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 80 per cent of deaths in Canada have been residents of personal care homes.
It is expected there will be a second wave of COVID-19. We need to be ready, as the recent rise in cases in Manitoba may be indicating the second save has already begun.
On June 23, I hosted an online forum called How do we prepare personal care homes for a second wave of COVID-19? Panelists included Dot Sloik, an advocate of personal care home improvements from Portage la Prairie, Beverley Dueck, a former public relations consultant and myself. All three of us have had close family members in personal care homes and considerable first-hand experience in dealing with concerns in personal care homes.
We asked a number of important questions including:
COVID-19 is disrupting, perhaps in some ways transforming, our livesWe are in the middle of a global pandemic with the coronavirus COVID-19 sweeping around the world. It started in China and, as I write this, the virus has spread to about 150 countries. We are thrust into a state of uncertainty. How bad will it be in River Heights and in Manitoba? We are taking various measures such as frequently washing our hands, maintaining ‘social distancing’, closing schools, ending large gatherings of people, etc. How long will this last?These changes may be short term, or they may be needed for months. It all depends on the progression of the epidemic. We need to try to make changes which can be sustainable for some time if necessary. The virus may not only disrupt our lives temporarily; it may also transform our lives for a longer period. We may find we are doing more learning by distance rather than in the schools, colleges or universities. We may find we are doing more phoning, face timing, teleconferencing and less travelling. One aspect is certain — people who are elderly, particularly those with chronic diseases, have a higher mortality rate than others. All four deaths in Canada, at the time of this writing, were in a single personal care home in B.C. Our ability to prevent the virus getting into our personal care homes is one of the keys to preventing deaths in Canada from COVID-19. People who are less fortunate and those who are homeless may be more vulnerable. People who live in northern Manitoba may, as we found with the H1N1 flu, be more susceptible. Helping and looking out for others is part of who we are as Manitobans. At some point we expect a vaccine to arrive and to protect us but it may be a year or two. There could be drugs which may have anti-viral activity against COVID-19, but this is uncertain. Hope is on the way but we do not yet know how effective these measures may be or when they may arrive. It is a waiting game. The virus is not just disrupting our health, it is disrupting our jobs and our economy. Thankfully the federal government is bringing in measures to help but we may need to be flexible and creative as we work together to find solutions. As we travel through this time of uncertainty, it helps to remember that for many people the COVID-19 infection may be mild. But for some it will not be. It is to prevent the sickness and death of these people, and to prevent our healthcare system from being overwhelmed, that we all need to pitch in and do our part. I write to thank everyone who reads this for doing your part. Whether you have a major role as a health professional, an important role in a retail store or pharmacy to continue supplying us food or drugs, or whether you just do your part to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus, we all can do something. Thank you all for being a part of this effort.
COVID-19 is disrupting, perhaps in some ways transforming, our lives.
We are in the middle of a global pandemic with the coronavirus COVID-19 sweeping around the world. It started in China and, as I write this, the virus has spread to about 150 countries.
We are thrust into a state of uncertainty. How bad will it be in River Heights and in Manitoba? We are taking various measures such as frequently washing our hands, maintaining ‘social distancing’, closing schools, ending large gatherings of people, etc. How long will this last?