CALGARY — Liberal Leader Raj Sherman kicked off his party's campaign in Calgary on Tuesday with charges that the intimidation of health-care workers extends far beyond doctors.
Sherman sat side-by-side in a news conference with nurse Terri Reuser, who said she paid a price for raising concerns about the deterioration of care and the mistreatment of elderly patients with dementia in a long-term care facility in Black Diamond.
The problems began in 2006, when the facility was under the Calgary Health Region and became worse after the formation of Alberta Health Services in 2008, Reuser said.
Problems such as bedsores and infections became more prevalent, she said.
Reuser alleges that a staff member had twisted the arm of an elderly patient behind her back to make her go to bed. The woman fell and required stitches to her head.
Another patient was slapped by a staff member, she said.
Reuser said she raised concerns about the problems to the facility administration and was "interrogated, bullied, just made to feel incompetent."
"I was shunned."
She wrote a letter to AHS and was told an investigation would be launched, but Reuser said she has never been told what resulted.
Sherman said the situation is part of a much greater problem with the system under the PC government, pointing to a Herald story last week that showed there have been 1,000 confirmed cases of elderly and disabled Albertans being abused in provincially funded facilities over the past seven years
He said Reuser's story is a piece with last month's Health Quality Council of Alberta report that found half the doctors who responded to a survey felt they had been stopped from advocating for their patients. About 20 per cent said they'd experienced "active harmful obstruction."
"It's beyond the bullying of doctors," said Sherman, an emergency room physician. "We have more than 30,000 nurses in this province and we as doctors can't do our job without all the nurses and the health staff. These are the angels of the health system who are right beside us. . . . Nurses are bullied as well as are all front line staff. And this is unacceptable in this province."
The Liberals are calling for the doubling of funding for home care and an additional $180 million for the construction of new, long-term care facilities.
Progressive Conservative Leader Alison Redford said the government hasn't denied the allegations of intimidation in the health system and is taking steps to deal with the issue.
A situation affecting seniors such as the one described by Reuser is a "tragedy," Redford said.
"We have to make sure that there are as few of those as possible," she said. "Unfortunately sometimes in the health are system there are circumstances that arise that really do lead to really unfortunate situations. What we have to do is make the system better. . . . We have to make sure that they're reported and we have to make sure we don't let them happen again. That's actually solving the problems."
In 2010, the governing Tories proclaimed the Protection of Persons in Care legislation to make it against the law not to report abuses.
Door-knocking later with former party leader David Swann in the trendy Hillhurst neighbourhood of his Calgary-Mountain View riding, Sherman is hoping the Liberals can add to the party's four seats in the city with a split between the front-running conservative parties.
Early polls have shown the long-governing Tories and the Wildrose party in a dead heat.
"Our chances are very good. There is a perfect 50-50 split on the right wing and there are a lot of progressive Calgarians. . . . I believe we can make big inroads," he said.
Calgary Herald, Wed Mar 28 2012
Byline: James Wood