Mayoral candidates speak on senior health and safety issues at forum

Need for healthcare specialists and safety in downtown key concerns for seniors

Coun. Dennis Nowoselsky, left, Darryl Hickie, Josh Morrow and Mayor Greg Dionne took part in a forum on senior's concerns hosted by the Seniors Advocacy Centre Thursday.

Mayoral candidates answered questions about health, safety, and social issues during a Thursday afternoon forum on senior’s concerns hosted by the Seniors Advocacy Centre.

A major question in the forum surrounded senior health issues and the lack of specialists at city hospitals.

“So far the city has no active cardiologists in the city, though heart disease is a major cause of death among seniors … so far we have no cancer specialists or cancer services though cancer is another major cause of death among seniors,” said moderator John Fryters.

Incumbent mayor, Greg Dionne, spoke on issues around funding the hospital building and expansions and stated that one of his concerns was taxpayers covering the cost and seniors potentially losing their homes over higher taxes, another key concern of his. He said the city accomplished his goal of keeping seniors in their homes by getting the hospital fully funded by the provincial government.

Candidate Josh Morrow said he believes building a case with strong evidence and reaching out to community members to understand their “hardships and struggles” would be a primary focus if he was elected mayor.

“Taking no for an answer once is not simply the solution to walk away, you need to keep fighting hard for causes like [senior’s health],” Morrow said.

Current Ward 7 Coun. and mayoral candidate, Dennis Nowoselsky shared personal stories about his family members. Nowoselsky said his father was in pain and dying from terminal cancer and overdosed on pain medication, attempting suicide. When nurses told him they couldn’t keep his father due to lack of orderly staff, Nowoselsky took matters into his own hands and called a retired nurse on the regional health board who got his father in a bed at Holy Family. Nowoselsky stressed this is why he believes regional representation is needed in the healthcare system.

“If we can do anything it’s to lobby Mr. Moe and the provincial cabinet to bring back regional health boards, they’re needed,” Nowoselsky concluded.

Nowoselsky said he is not in favour of providing incentives to doctors and specialists to come to the city, calling it “insulting” to other professions.

Mayoral candidate, Darryl Hickie added that incentives for incoming doctors and specialists wouldn’t be the city’s responsibility.

“We don’t have to give incentive because the [SHA] will make space for that particular specialist and they’ll be recruiting that specialist to come here – if they provide an incentive, it’s through them, not through the city,” Hickie said.

As for his own stance on senior health issues, Hickie said he believes the mayor “needs to stay above the fray” but take concerns forward as a group.

“One thing that is definitely a concern of course is the specialists, we’ve always had a lack of specialists here and we always argue and talked about it when I was in government that if you build a fully functional regional hospital, that we’re going to see now, we then will be able to advocate say now that the space is here you can now have a specialist here,” Hickie said.

Doug Dahl, spokesperson for Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) confirmed there is no oncologist in Prince Albert but there are community chemotherapy services available. Dahl said while there are several internal medicine specialists in the city, none would be considered a cardiologist.

Another major issue of discussion at forum was petty crime in the downtown area, more specifically around the Senior Advisory Centre.

Fryters said people using drugs and urinating and defecating around the building were particular areas of concern.

Mayor Dionne said he is upset over the issue as he knows there is large number of seniors that frequent the downtown area. He said he asked the provincial government to move the liquor board store, but they refused as the store “serves a certain sector of our community”.

“So they’re well aware of the problem, but they’re not prepared to address it and that upsets me because this is where our seniors are,” Dionne said.

Coun. Nowoselsky said one way to help reduce crime is to have better lighting in outdoor spaces. He said a model that was developed in North Battleford where people were sold motion sensor lights at cost was “a good program.”

Nowoselsky said he’s heard from seniors in midtown who said they are “fed up with the petty crime, they’re moving out.”

“I think with our two new bylaw officers being hired and put under planning, if they were deployed for the next year in example the downtown, midtown area we can see massive improvements and reduction in petty crime,” Nowoselsky said.

Hickie raised concerns about Georgie’s being open until 3:30 a.m. and patrons lining up to buy alcohol early in the morning. He spoke about his experience as a police officer when they would be called to parties going on in the day and suggested that with Georgie’s being open later, people were able to make late night runs to stock up on alcohol supply. He said the elected mayor and council members need to be more “forthright in that issue” and perhaps limit hour of sales where possible through bylaws.

Morrow took another approach to the issue of crime, saying he believed that if the root cause could not be fixed than a major problem could not be solved.

“It’s a community involvement I mean we have amazing people in this community that are running rampant, ragged, trying their best to help people and I believe we can do more and we need to support those people,” Morrow said.

All mayoral candidates were respectful of one another, and did not speak over each other.