Valerie’s Voice in La Ronge: adventures in Saskatchewan’s healthcare system

This column will be a mixed bag this month with my sense of Saskatchewan’s health care system and the life of our folks on the street.

It’s hard to know where to start in a way.

We—my husband and I—have been involved heavily in the healthcare system over the past month. Through that experience I’ve seen many areas of concern.

The healthcare system is overloaded and understaffed at critical times. People are working hard to look after others who are ill in one way or another.

There’s a one-shoe-fits-all system, which probably works for a very small portion of the population needing care. Maybe for those trying to give care, I’m not sure there.

I’ve often had a different perspective on these systems that come out of our patriarchal world. I don’t fit often or am forced to fit against my will and Spirit. I am not alone I’m sure.

Some try to work in different ways within the system and have a different vision, or try to operate outside the system. It’s a complex world.

The system is set up primarily to benefit the pharmaceuticals, not necessarily people. I know that’s not the most common understanding and there are people working in that system that have the care of people first in their intention.

We have seen people working hard when the hospital is overloaded and staff is short in numbers. We have seen people trying to bring health care to people with different skill sets, perspectives and practices. Sometimes people working in that scene are using their practices when it doesn’t work for everyone.

And, of course, everyone is an individual. We met people who were so kind and friendly working with patience and some who were not so patient. People struggling to give care to a large number of patients/clients when there were many people needing different kinds of care.

The system seems broken down, unhealthy.

I am grateful to those who showed us care and concern in both La Ronge and Prince Albert this past month.

Scattered-Site Outreach Program

Scattered, as some of us refer to the Scattered-Site Outreach Program (SSOP) and the folks who are part of their family are close to my heart.

I worked as an Outreach Worker with the day and overnight programs, been a volunteer, a supporter in several ways, and both personally and as a reporter with the La Ronge Northerner.

For example, we ran a Did You Know column on homelessness for several years.

I am honoured to have worked and known many of these folks. Every one of us is individual and “our folks” are also.

To this day they treat me with love, respect and care.

And I was privileged to have gotten to know many of them and be entrusted with their stories.

Their lives are complex, and they live with a society that views them as some kind entity that doesn’t belong. And that varies.

During my time at Scattered there was a vision emerged, which involved the clients and others. The client-voice was strong, because people worked with them respectfully. They are the experts, because it’s their life experience.

Anything meant to improve people’s lives needs the voice and perspective of those whose lives are most imminently affected.

If it’s homelessness, only those who are homeless, or have been, know what it’s like and what is needed. They are the experts.

I was unable to attend the Town of La Ronge Council meeting this past Tuesday March 23 and have not yet had an opportunity to view it online.

I’ve seen our folks put up teepees for themselves for shelter; build a camp near the lake, was well organized actually. The Town Council moved them to another place, where they weren’t as visible and that I believe was actually unsafe.

Someone wrote a piece on Facebook in connection to this current situation calling for compassion and I am thankful. Some others have spoken up in support.

The dollar is the God in our society in this patriarchal world, but that is a topic for another column.

I decided a few years ago, in relation to what many call “swearing,” when people have what they need and are respected as members of the community, in a good way, I will be concerned about whether I swear or not. Swearing can be a good stress reliever, depending on the words used, when fighting injustice and relieves from the terminal niceness that doesn’t seem real and honest to me. Without our folks being treated with respect and compassion, nowhere in this community could ever be “beautified.” Nor, could it be a place where I feel any sense of pride.