Keeping Medicare alive in Canada ............................... 4-5
Number one in a series on elder abuse:
Preventing financial abuse ...............................................6-7
Feature interview: Don Berg ...............................................8
New COSCO branch formed in Kootenays .................... 9
National Pensioners Federation
celebrates an active year of advocacy ...........................10
Renew today! ........................................................................ 12
December 2014 Newsletter (pdf)
A month ago, I attended a workshop put on by COSCO. No, this was not a grocery workshop put on by one of the largest food store chains in the world. Rather it was organized by the Council of Senior Citizens Organization (COSCO) of British Columbia and sponsored by its health and wellness Institute. The local area branch is the Kootenay Council of Seniors Association.
I haven't been a senior for long, but I had a look at COSCO's brochure of wellness workshops and thought many of these sessions would be useful.
For example, there were workshops for Falling Prevention, Fraud and Scams, Knowing Your Bladder, Sleep Problems, and Emergency Preparedness. In all, there were 43 workshops listed for seniors, and these workshops come with power-point slides and top-notch presenters.
COSCO is an umbrella organization with no paid staff, and it brings together 85 seniors groups representing 107,000 women and men. COSCO is affiliated with the one million-member National Pension Federation, which lobbies for seniors at the national level. Around British Columbia, COSCO has generated a significant group of volunteers who work on behalf of seniors and deliver workshops upon request.
The COSCO workshop I attended was presented by Nelson's Craig and Judy Gray of Grayt Expectations Ltd. The topic was Mature Driver Assessment Procedures.
This workshop covered various aspects of how aging may affect driving skills and gave detailed information about the assessment procedures in place for seniors whose health is failing or whose age is nearing 80. Doctors have been given the responsibility of identifying seniors who may not be functioning well as drivers, and this workshop outlined the various tests that are being used.
For many seniors, getting a driver medical examination report is a mysterious and frightening prospect. It is doubly nerve-wracking if tests like the Montreal cognitive assessment or the Simard test are presented with very little or no warning for the seniors wanting to renew their drivers' licences.
COSCO is hoping to partner with the superintendent of motor vehicles to develop a workshop to make seniors more comfortable about the entire DriveABLE situation.
At the mature Drivers' workshop I attended, about 20 worried seniors came out to get the straight goods about these tests, and the Grays did a first-rate job of outlining the process. They also indicated it was essential for those seniors in the know to make other seniors aware of what might be ahead for them while getting their drivers' licences renewed.
Items clarified included what happens if a senior fails a particular item such as the on-screen test. That senior will still have the option of taking a road assessment. I agree with the seniors I've talked to that the road test should be the main assessment — not sitting in a doctor's office trying to recall a list of unrelated words.
The Kootenay arm of COSCO wants to help seniors prepare for the driver medical examination, particularly the driving part. As Craig Gray reminded me, most seniors have never had another driver's test since they passed their licence requirements in their teenage years.
What the Kootenay Council of Seniors Association has in mind is to pair a senior who requires testing with a volunteer senior and the two of them going for drives together to brush up on current driving standards.
COSCO is working on getting the seniors licence renewal good for five years instead of the current two years. Maybe we should request that the mature drivers workshop be given in Castlegar again so more seniors can hear what's going on. Just knowing what to expect may help our seniors retain their independence for a longer period of time.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 11, 2014
BC seniors call on federal government to provide leadership in strengthening public health care
B.C.'s largest federation of seniors has called on the federal, provincial and territorial governments to negotiate "a new comprehensive health accord that protects, transforms and strengthens our national health care system."
At a special meeting held in Vancouver today – 11 days after the expiry of the national health accord – about 100 seniors unanimously adopted a declaration that quality health care must be available to every resident of Canada without discrimination, and regardless of ability to pay.
"All levels of government have a role to play in the delivery of quality and accessible health care," said Lorraine Logan, President of the 107,000 member Council of Senior Citizens' Organizations of B.C.
"The federal government should give strong leadership in enforcing national standards, not walking away from the table and refusing to negotiate a new accord," said Logan.
"To ensure Medicare is not fragmented, Ottawa must provide coordination, foster innovation, and provide financial support at a level that secures the integrity of the 1984 Canada Health Act," she said.
The meeting of COSCO delegates heard from three health policy experts on the issue.
Michael McBane of the Canadian Health Coalition said the Harper government has launched a "stealth attack" on Medicare, with reductions in funding scheduled for future years.
"We need a national debate, a national conversation on the future of Medicare," said McBane, adding that the withdrawal of federal leadership will lead to a fragmentation of service.
"This is a fight to maintain access so people can get care based on need," he said.
Wendell Potter, former head of communications at a large health insurance company in the USA, said he walked away from his job when he realized private corporations were not improving access, were not improving quality of care, and looked on health care as a major profit centre.
"With help from the Fraser Institute, the company misinformed Americans about Canada's health care system, calling it 'the slippery slope to socialism,'" said Potter.
He called on Canadians to carefully examine the misleading language used by those who promote privatization.
"Sound the alarm" said Potter. "You can lose Medicare for yourselves, your children, your grandchildren and future generations."
Alex Himelfarb – director of the Glendon School of Public and International Affairs at York University, former Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to the Cabinet for three prime ministers – said that private health care is far more expensive and has longer wait times.
Himelfarb called for a national Pharmacare program, a better approach to care for chronic illness, and the integration of home care and home support into Medicare.
"Countries that have done that have a more sustainable health care system than we have," he said. "We have lots of work to do to make Medicare strong, better and more affordable. We need a clear vision for the future. We need federal leadership – and we don't have it," he said.
Seniors at the meeting expressed outrage that the federal government has refused to negotiate a new health accord, effectively ending Medicare as a national program.
They were also frustrated that four B.C. Conservative Members of Parliament – including Richmond MP Alice Wong, the minister of state for seniors – have refused to meet with them to discuss these issues.
Conference photographs can be seen on our Photo Link or Click Here.
(including some photographs that Denis Ottewell was kind enough to share)
COSCO is cautiously optimistic about the long awaited appointment of the Seniors Advocate and we have high expectations for the position and of Ms MacKenzie.
We welcome the appointment of Isobel MacKenzie as British Columbia's first Seniors Advocate. She will take up her position on March 31st.
BC's largest federation of seniors has expressed deep concern about the failure of the federal government to negotiate a new health accord with provinces and territories. "Unless the federal government changes its mind and negotiates a new health accord, Medicare will be fragmented, with different standards of care in different parts of the country. Medicare will no longer be a national program. And the federal government's multi-billion dollar reductions in funding will lead to more cuts in service to patients," says Lorraine Logan, President of the Council of Senior Citizens' Organizations of B.C. (COSCO).
The federal-provincial health accord that set national standards of care expired on March 31.
To raise awareness of the seriousness of the issue, COSCO is hosting a public event:
10:00 to 11:00 am, Friday, April 11
Hastings Community Centre
3096 East Hastings St, Vancouver
Wendell Potter, a health policy expert. Potter is former head of communications at Cigna, a multinational health insurance company. In his book Deadly Spin, he exposed the industry PR juggernaut that spends millions lobbying and funding front groups to promote for-profit care.
Alex Himelfarb, director of the Glendon School of Public and International Affairs at York University. A federal public servant for 28 years, he served as Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to the Cabinet for three prime ministers.
CAMBIE CORP. GOES TO COURT; The Legal Assault on Universal Health Care - by Colleen Fuller published by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
"Some have described it as a perversion of Canadian values that they cannot use their money to purchase faster treatment from a private provider
for their loved ones. I believe it is a far greater perversion of Canadian values to accept a system where money, rather than need, determines who
gets access to care."
4— Roy Romanow, from the final report of the Royal Commission on the Future of Health Care (2002) "Equality is impossible."
5— Brian Day, from a presentation to the Fraser Institute (2006)