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Steinbach's MLA continues to pressure the Selinger Government for additional personal care home beds. Earlier this week we brought you the story of Bill Lepp of Steinbach who is having to travel to Vita each day to visit his wife who's in a PCH there. Kelvin Goertzen (right inset) says it's a very touching story but not a unique one.
Goertzen has received from Lepp thousands of signatures as part of petitions begging the Selinger Government for more beds. Each day before Question Period, Goertzen stands up and reads the names of fifteen people from these petitions. "'I've been reading those petitions since the House opened for this spring session and will continue to do that till the end of this session and into the fall of next year and hopefully as long as it takes," notes Goertzen.
The Steinbach MLA admits often when he stands up during Question Period, NDP MLA's will roll their eyes and mutter "here goes Goertzen again." But he's noticed they don't do that for this particular case. Goertzen says for him to be the squeaky wheel is one thing but when you've got the backing of thousands of signatures, it adds quite a punch. "My hope is that over the long run the message sinks in when they hear each and every day these petitions coming forward," adds Goertzen.
Goertzen says nobody likes to guess how long the current wait time is for a PCH bed and he fully understands why. "When somebody's trying to get in, that means that somebody has to leave the personal care home," he says. And in most cases that means trying to predict when somebody might die. Rather he says health officials prefer to speak in terms of how many seniors are on the waiting list. "Typically there are several dozen who are on a list for personal care homes in the community," he says.
Goertzen says it's no secret the city of Steinbach has experienced a tremendous population boom in recent years. "The explosion of the growth over the last ten years I don't think would have been predicted twenty years ago," he says. Goertzen notes this growth has been a driving force behind the city's need for more PCH space. But he says it's now very important government responds to this growth. "With growth comes an increased tax base and more money for the government," adds Goertzen. "This region is contributing very well to the coffers of Manitoba. So then there's a responsibility to ensure that while you're getting the benefits of the growth of the community that you're also putting back into that community with the infrastructure needs that they have because of that growth."
"I'm cautiously optimistic that we'll have some commitments by the next election," notes Goertzen. But he's quick to add there's a difference between committing and delivering on those promises. Goertzen says it took five years from the time the NDP Government promised an upgrade to Steinbach's Emergency Room to the day construction finally started.
"They have acknowledged that this is a problem," says Goertzen. "They have said that there is a shortage of personal care home beds in this community, the minister of health has said that. So that's often the first step in the journey and so at least that first step has been taken. And now we need the commitment and from the commitment we need to get into the ground."
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