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West End seniors like Anne Gregory want answers about St. Paul’s future.

Elderly ill at ease over St. Paul’s unclear future

Conversation and the aroma of freshly brewed coffee filled the air on a recent Friday afternoon at St. Paul’s Hospital’s…

By Rebecca Cheung , in Health , on October 29, 2009 Tags: , , ,

Conversation and the aroma of freshly brewed coffee filled the air on a recent Friday afternoon at St. Paul’s Hospital’s Burrard Street entrance. In other parts of the hospital, visitors sat quietly in waiting areas while medical staff streamed past.

Yet, West End residents like Anne Gregory, an octogenarian who depends on St. Paul’s for their Elder Care Ambulatory Services, are worried about the hospital’s future.

West End seniors like Anne Gregory want answers about St. Paul's future.
West End seniors like Anne Gregory want answers about St. Paul's future.

“Many seniors, they are lost souls. They may have already lost half their minds,” Gregory said. “They need to know that they are not alone, that they [St. Paul’s Hospital] are there to assist them. It gives them the feeling that they aren’t lost.”

However, vague plans to renew the hospital’s facilities and health services have left many residents, especially seniors, anxious about the future of accessible health care.

More than 200, 000 patients were treated at St. Paul’s last year, according to St. Paul’s Hospital Foundation’s website. Approximately 25 per cent of admitted patients were over 70 years old, according to St. Paul parent company Providence Health Care’s website.

David Thompson, Providence’s corporate director of senior care, said that the hospital is committed to providing health care for seniors.

“We are interested in how we can work with seniors at St. Paul’s, how we can meet their needs, link them to the appropriate service and have them return back to their home,” he said.

A concerned community

Community concerns first arose when Providence Health Care, a non-profit health care provider that operates out of eight facilities including St. Paul’s, launched The Legacy Project in 2002.

Legacy’s initial aims included building renovations as well as consolidating services on fewer sites to run more efficiently.

Providence later proposed the construction of a second site, on Station Street at False Creek Flats. Due to budgetary constraints, construction of the second site was never initiated.

Wordpress pic -BIG HOSPITAL
St. Paul's Hospital towers over residences and local businesses.

“Providence has put out a vision for what we think St. Paul’s requires. It needs a complete renewal,” Shaf Hussain, chief communications officer at Providence said.

“There is no approved plan. It is hard to release any details. It is hard to develop any details until the concept gains any momentum.”

Seniors remain apprehensive.

“Why isn’t it possible to give us certainty about this hospital? I think it’s outright cruel for us seniors,” Gregory said at a community forum earlier this month.

Kip Woodward, board chair of Providence was not available for an interview, but he responded to Gregory’s questions at the same forum.

“Unfortunately there are no answers to date,” he said.

“It may well be that the hospital stays here in some format. It also may well be that services stay here for specific populations.”

“An excellent place to grow old”

Brent Granby, president of the West End Resident Association and vice chair of the Save St. Paul’s Coalition, said that seniors rely heavily on the facility.

“The West End is an excellent place to grow old,” Granby said.

“Everything is within walking distance and [there are] so many services for seniors.”

Efficient emergency care has been essential for seniors like Sheila Baxter, 76.

When Baxter experienced chest pains last month, she took a taxi to St. Paul’s emergency department from her West End home. Her condition worsened while in the waiting room and she was looked after immediately.

“I stood up and started to really wheeze. I had a massive attack. They had me rushed and I was in a bed in five minutes with oxygen,” Baxter said.

“I was really lucky they diagnosed me very fast. I was able to go home that night and I was treated really well.”

Fellow senior, Gregory, lives 12 blocks from St. Paul’s.

Gregory has previously participated in the Healthy Heart program. She currently benefits from elder care services, which have helped her deal with balance and stabilization problems.

She said that accessibility to health programs at St. Paul’s is essential, especially for seniors.

“The program works because it keeps you motivated and keeps you informed. It gives you the message that when you have heart problems it’s not all over. It gives you the message to pick up the pieces and it helps you along,” Gregory said.