I’ve been following The Free Press’s reporting of Southeast B.C. residents access—or lack thereof—to healthcare services in Alberta over the past weeks. There are many testimonials residents could provide to the Province that would justify policy makers pushing harder not only for better access to nearby Alberta’s healthcare, but also to immediate funding for radiation services at EKRH in Cranbrook. This is just mine.
A little over a year ago my father received a late-stage diagnosis of T-Cell Lymphoma. Given he was not granted access to care in Alberta, he was sent to Kelowna from Cranbrook for immediate treatment. Due to the long distance between Fernie and Kelowna, it took us a couple days to sort out logistics—finding transportation and accommodation—in order to get my mom to be with him, and us shortly after. By the time my sister arrived with her 8-month-old son from Victoria and I from Fernie, my father was palliative and had less than 24 hours to live.
He died a week after his diagnosis. We had limited support in Kelowna, were incredibly far from home, and deep into the shock that was our sudden and unexpected grief.
Though the location for my father’s treatment would not have made a difference in the untimely ending of his life, I can’t help but think of the far less stress and despair we as his family would have had to endure were he granted access to healthcare closer to home. The difficulties of organizing ourselves to get to the interior of the province, partnered with finding a suitable place to stay and be together, ensuring we had a vehicle to get to and from the hospital, and the many logistics after his passing, were all-consuming at a time that was already impossible to bear.
If it were not for Fernie Friends for Friends, Angel Flight East Kootenay, my dear friend Lisa who did airport pick-ups, and another close friend’s parents who offered up their home to us, we would have been without the very basic needs required in order to spend the last hours of my father’s life with him.
We are eternally grateful for these people, and eternally hopeful that another family does not have to endure what we did when losing a loved one. Living in the Southeast corner, however, means we are not the exception to this.
It’s therefore appropriate—and should indeed be mandatory—that the Province acknowledge the importance of support and care for those of us residing in the Southeast corner through better funding and advocacy. We indeed exist, have people we love who become sick, and deserve the same access and accessibility to care that other residents in the province have. A new hospital in Surrey does not support the needs of residents in the Southeast corner of the province.
Our loved ones deserve better.