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by Wolf William Solkin


Ste. Anne's  (Veterans) Hospital is about to be exposed to its own institutional version of PTSD, i.e., Post Transfer Snafu Discombobulation (with  abject apologies to those heroic men and women  who may be suffering from the very real and debilitating illness with those self-same initials). I. refer to the feared future in which,   while at present all parking privileges at Ste. Anne's are fully free for all parties,  once the Transfer from Federal to Provincial jurisdiction is actually implemented (forecast: circa April 1, 2016), parking charges will then be levied on all and sundry, with the pointless exception of the Veterans themselves. [Although I wouldn't put it past Quebec's Health Minister, "Bully -Boy" Barrette, to wish he could concoct an imaginary parking fee schedule for wheelchairs and walkers, with a  surcharge for power chairs and scooters , to augment his arbitrary austerity measures].

I have had many a concerned question put to me by Vets at Ste. Anne's  as to whether their visitors will be obliged to pay for parking, and I feel it is incumbent upon me to address, probe and protest that very  vital issue, while there is even the slightest chance of mitigating the destructive and inevitable fall-out of enforcing paid parking upon  the avalanche of variegated  visitors and employees  who daily  descend upon us in droves.  I can clearly but haplessly foresee a drastic drop in visitation by our Veterans' families and friends, both in frequency and duration.  A present pattern of two to three visits per week could easily plummet to only once weekly or even less; once- a -week visits could go down to once -a-month or, if lucky, twice monthly; and customary stays of two to three hours or more, could be severely cut back to one measly  hour,  max !

Such abysmal assumptions/predictions on my part can be justified in face of the reality of restricted disposable income  available to considerable numbers of Ste, Anne's Veterans' families and friends.How many of them, do you honestly believe, will be able to afford to shell out an additional trying tariff of $30 up to $120 per week for fifty-two weeks per annum, every year  until death do them part ?.......Just DO THE MATH...!!

Now stop to think of the potentially devastating effects such a sharp and sudden curtailment of the life-line of  visitation would have upon the morale, behaviour and even mental and physical health of so many of Ste. Anne's already emotionally frail and fragile Veterans; even unto those whose only cognitive connection is the sight of a familiar  face, or to sense the aura of their family's boundless love........such a prospect is too terrible and shameful to contemplate !

Does that sad and sorry scenario reconcile with  Veterans Affairs Canada's proud public pronouncement that "VAC places the highest priority on ensuring that Veterans and their families are to have access to the support they need when they need it".....WELL, DOES IT ?....NO WAY !!
Such an unthinkable outcome is totally unacceptable, and must be promptly prevented in the face of all "costs" !

And what of the thousand -plus faithful employees , without whose culture of devotion and dedication to its patients, Ste. Anne's would be but another cold and impersonal institution, rather than the fine facility favouring its "family" of Veterans as exists today ? The staff is already more than disquieted and dispirited by the spectre of lower wages, higher insurance costs ,  heavier work loads and fewer work hours than heretofore, and the looming foregone free parking privileges makes for one more big bite into their (reduced) income.  That would be yet another negative nail driven deep Into their  coffin of concerns, replete with reasons enough for those remaining workers  to seek greener grass in more welcoming pastures , on the other side of benighted Barrette's fence. Bear in mind that availability of adequate public transportation to Ste. Anne de Bellevue is just a joke, and most of the employees come from afar, by car, and would obviously prefer to work much closer to home, all else being equal.

I have been informed, "on the record", by an official source with inherent integrity but subject to the routine regulatory restraints , that while specific details  of the  parking charges  are not to be cleared for public release until after both governments will have assented to and signed the final terms and conditions of the Transfer agreement, I can rest assured that "the Veterans and their families will be happy with the result".  I must confess to my uncertainty of the definition of the word "happy" in this context as applicable to "families":...does it mean gratis...or half-off ...or somewhat reduced...or special monthly rates......OR WHAT ?
I am left to draw the inevitable inference that many or all of the many other parties involved, will, to the contrary, be far from "happy", no matter the definition.

I have therefore to question, what will be the parking charges and/or concessions applied to the hundreds upon hundreds of Volunteers who  faithfully provide a plethora of pro bono services every day of every year;.will they be as quick to do so if they have to pay parking charges for the privilege of performing their benevolent acts ? ...And what of the many members of  the Royal Canadian Legion branches who regularly sponsor Bingo nights and bring Care Packages to all our Vets?...and the Service Clubs whose adherents mount multiple   entertainments?...and the Canadian Armed Forces personnel who participate in ceremonial occasions and exhibitions?...and the  Corps of Cadets cadres who act as reverse rickshaw runners, pushing wheelchair - bound Vets  to the Auditorium for concerts and other events?...and those  special individuals who, of their own volition  on their own initiative, and at their own expense,   come ito Ste. Anne's Hospital with their immensely popular pets to bring smiles to otherwise sorrowful, detached and lonely faces?...and the myriad precious little children  who arrive in their school buses with faithful regularity to deliver their delightful hand-made greeting cards (in bot official  languages) of "Thanks for your service" at Christmas, Valentine's Day, VE-Day and Remembrance Day?  Yes indeed; what of "all of the above"?    Just how many of  those invaluable enhancements to the well-being of the Band of Brothers still surviving at Ste, Anne's will  willingly continue to come here to give of their time and efforts;  and if some graciously do so, then how often and for how long will they  persist if subjected to a parking charge penalty as a perverse "reward" for every time they extend a helping hand to a hapless Veteran.?.....                I WOULDN'T BET ON IT !

So how to resolve this coming cause-and-effect crisis of such potentially cruel consequences? How to continue to derive such priceless benefits from so many excellent people without making them pay the price for their "bonnes actions" ?  The answer, my friends, is blowing in the wind, as bestirred by the voices YOU can raise, the emails and tweets YOU can send, the phone calls and/or letters with which YOU deluge the Honourable Minister (and his honourable Deputy Minister) of Veterans Affairs , in addition to your own Member of Parliament and your area's Senator. So, to start off right, YOU yourself need to get off your glutes and put on your boots. Your  mission and your message should be short and not-so-sweet, to the effect that if they want to have the Ste. Anne's Veterans continue to enjoy the benefits derived from the activities of all the  persons profiled above,then they must each get off what is commonly called  their respective  butts, and take collective / effective action NOW, vis a vis the final terms of the Transfer agreement, before it is signed and/or implemented, to ensure that Ste. Anne's Hospital policy and practise of free parking for all be upheld and never upturned....out of the deepest  respect, regard and reciprocity for the sacrifice and service rendered to our home and native land by these few remaining remnants of our honourable and venerable Veterans.

                        "IF IT AIN'T BROKE, DON'T  (try to) FIX IT"
and. lest we forget....

          .....................      LEAVE  NO  VET  BEHIND !

P. S. On a more personal note....Prior to my regrettable yet inescapable resignation as Editor-in -Chief of "The Veterans' Voice" newsletter for  the Veterans at Ste. Anne's, I submitted the gist of this column as a proposed Editorial, in the hope of having some impact on the political',powers-that-be, only to have it rejected on the purported grounds (among others) that it would create anxiety and inquietude among the residents.   If only "The Management" elements governing Ste. Anne's Hospital were  not so disconnected and out-of- touch with the facts on the ground, they might recognize how much angst, anxiety and even anger already exist among so many of their puzzled patients , not only over the potential parking problem, but several other major well.The administration echelon might also realize that even if there are no immediate answers to the Vets' questions or qualms,  just having their concerns aired on their behalf helps to lower their level of stress significantly. It is essential that one speak not only to the Veterans, but also speak for them, and in their best interests,  even if that requires putting some big burrs  under some substantial saddles.
Whatever the outcome of that approach, it strikes me as being much more preferable and potentially productive than that of having  Ste. Anne's  senior staff just circle the wagons and hide their  collective heads in the sand,  hoping that the several storms swirling about them will go unnoticed until they disappear into the ubiquitous and infamous black holes of bureaucratic blindness.
The recently imposed Ste. Anne's in-house "Guidelines"(proscribing confrontational content in its newsletter) would have instantaneously  called for refusal to publish this  diatribe of protestation as being too "controversial",  and/or making "political representations", and/or  posing questions that look for responses to "external sources"; all of which quoted phrases are prominent in Ste. Anne's rigidly restrictive "Guidelines".  Those very expressions of estrangement from the latter medium led to my  fortuitous association  with Canadian Veterans Advocacy in our common cause, which is to obtain for all Canadian  Veterans everywhere, not charity  or the odd square meal, but an enduring and equalizing  SQUARE DEAL !



A VETERAN'S VOICE: Intro / TRANSFER of Ste Anne by Wolf Solkin WWII Veteran

This new column is intended to be the first in a series of observations and comments about the considerable concerns of Canadian Veterans. Its primary focus will tend to be on the old(er), WWII and Korea Vets, with whom I naturally identify more closely; particularly the gang at Ste. Anne de Bellevue Hospital, where I, along with some three hundred and forty other 90+ year old ex-service men and women, are confined to quarters, "for the duration".

Let me introduce myself, by first avowing to you that I have the best interests of my fellow-Veterans close at heart, that what I say is sincere, and whatever you may wish to say to me in return , will always be respected and faithfully represented. I will speak for you and to you , and you are welcome and invited to participate in these conversations with your own thoughts, opinions and experiences, on any subject of value and/or interest to Canadian Veterans, especially "The Old Guard". That goes for your family and friends as well, who might aso hold their own views about my views, and have (horror?) stories to tell about the treatment of Canada's Veterans.

Pertinent portions of my 'Street Cred' Include the following:

I am a nonagenarian World War II Canadian Army Veteran, on partial pension, yet sufficiently disabled to have been admitted as a permanent resident at Ste. Anne's (Veterans) Hospital, in Quebec.

I proudly served and saw combat as an infantry platoon commander with the splendid Algonquin Regiment (aka the "Algoons", of 4th Div.) in North West Europe, ending up well inside Germany on V-E Day..

I was then seconded to the D.V.A. in Canada as a Rehabilitation Officer, facilitating the discharge process of the first waves of men returning home , by advising them, with the empathy inherent in a true comrade-in-arms, of their (bare-bones) benefits and entitlements upon re-entering the slippery slopes of "Civilian Life".

Later, I acquired a Master's Degree in Social Work at the University of Toronto, based on my having joined up while still an under-grad at McGill. I subsequently switched to a more "meat-and-potatoes" business career path, necessitated by the need to feed a family of five.

I have been in my new home at Ste. Anne's Hospital for almost two years now, during which time I became a Director of the Residents' Committee, and Editor-in-Chief of what I personally conceived, created and developed into a highly lauded bilingual newsletter, called "The Veterans' Voice"/ "La Voix des Veterans". This innovative periodical has been widely favoured and much in demand by the Vets and their families, as well as numerous volunteers and employees.

Regrettably, I was recently compelled to resign as Editor, necessitated by the egregious imposition of a new set of highly restrictive and totally unacceptable rules and regulations, which make a mockery of the words. "free press". Those onerous restraints were so extreme as to interpose and authorize   a mish -mash of persons, (some of whom had never contributed as much as one comma or one minute to producing the "Veterans' Voice"),wielding absolute power to censor, control and cancel any or all of my written words at will. Further crass conditions required that a designated "Spokesperson" be present at all times to monitor and represent me at any media interviews or events. Nor would I be allowed to write or speak about anything "controversial", or political/government-related, or ask questions of any "external"/ public officials. Nobody, but NOBODY, should be so empowered as to be enabled to encroach on one's inviolable rights to freedom of speech and expression, in defence of which so many of us fought so fiercely. I therefore refused to prostitute my principles or compromise my integrity, on the unholy altar of institutional insularity and/or paltry, petty peevishness. Sadly, immediately following my resignation, that once successful and popular newsletter has suspended publication for an indefinite term, much to the detriment and at the expense of the many Veterans who eagerly anticipated each new issue, and who are now dismayed by being deprived of that positive and pleasurable experience.

No one else seems willing (or able?) to take on that responsibility, despite the Pyrrhic victory of the campaign to morph the once tvigorous "Veterans' Voice" into a mere whimpering whisper of vacuous vignettes.

All of which has now led me, here and now, to this pivotal point in my primary purpose: to protect and uphold the rights of our Veterans, enhance their over-arching health and welfare services , defend their dignity, and be vigilant and unyielding in ensuring the high level of care and comfort they need to live a life replete with value and respect, which they have dearly earned at such great cost and sacrifice. This column is meant to serve as every concerned Vet's eyes, ears and voice, and to give one and all an ongoing opportunity to know what they should rightly know, hear what they need to hear, and say what they want to say, all for the betterment of us all.

For this special privilege to participate in such an open and unique exchange of ideas and opinions, grateful acknowledgement must be directed to the Canadian Veterans Advocacy.

So thanks to you, guys!

Among the many topics to be considered for future columns are the following few examples:

> #>What will be the impact of the forthcoming Damoclean "TRANSFER" of Ste. Anne's Hospital from Federal to Quebec Provincial control, In all its numerous and disturbing ramifications?

> .#> What frightful fallout could occur once Quebec's Health Minister Barrette imposes and implements his new and harshly criticized Bill 10's provincial protocols and arguable standards, including having rescinded the publicly promised "Stand Alone" status for Ste. Anne's Hospital, now lumping it together with several other unrelated health institutions?

#>Is taking frail and aged Veterans on ceremonial junkets to Europe a positive and rewarding idea, but with possibly serious negative after-effects?

>> #> Immediate need to Implement urgently required proactive (vs. reactive) Security Measures in all Veterans' venues and facilities.

> #> Etcetera, etc., etc.....including some issues about which our readers might wish to inquire, so please start / keep those cards and letters comin'!

That's it for now folks, but remember.......



Tech-savvy 91-year-old gives voice to veterans at Ste-Anne Hospital


Letter: Cpl. Paul Franklin's story made this Second World War vet very angry



                                              by  Wolf William Solkin

You may recall from my introductory column that I am a WW Ii Veteran residing quite contentedly and comfortably at Ste. Anne's Hospital near Montreal. Heretofore, my fellow Veterans and I have had little to complain of; however, dark clouds are looming on the horizon, threatening to evolve into a tsunami of turmoil and chaos, which may soon strike our serene shores with a vengeance.

I speak of the forthcoming TRANSFER of the hospital from federal to provincial jurisdiction. When this happens (predicted to be signed before the end of this year and implemented early in 2016), we can expect to be trussed up and taken from the comparatively caring arms of Veterans Affairs Canada to the entangling tentacles of Quebec's Ministry of Health and Social Services, under the autocratic and absolute authority of the Honourable(?) Minister Gaetan Barrette, aka the "Bullying Bulldozer". That Transfer , among many other negative effects, will place Ste. Anne's Hospital completely under the control of the nefarious and almost universally opposed and much-protested "BILL 10", a major obstructive obstacle in the path of the still unsigned Transfer agreement..

There is a challengingly long (and sometimes dirty) laundry list of concerns, complaints, questions, quandaries, uncertainties and anxieties with which the Vets at Ste. Anne's must contend, both before and after the Transfer. I intend to address some of the most daunting issues in future  columns, in the hope that some in the seats of power, be they situated in Ottawa and/or Quebec City, might hear and even heed my/our words.

Today's flavour of the month, by undeniably unpopular vote, is the above-mentioned bilious Bill10, a piece of lethal legislation which could well undermine the very foundations of the unparalleled health care upon which Ste. Anne's tradition and reputation were built.

An egregious example of Barrette's bludgeoning tactics is that, although two former federal and provincial health ministers had jointly and publicly proclaimed to the media their parties' pledge that Ste. Anne's Hospital would always retain its unique status as a "Stand-Alone" institution, he blindsided everyone by unilaterally pronouncing that it would, instead, fall under his Bill10 reorganization plan, designed primarily/ostensibly to cut the hell out of health costs. This will force Ste. Anne's to surrender its indispensable independence, becoming just one of eight health and welfare institutions haphazardly lumped together in the "one size fits all" mish-mash that will operate as the West Island CISSS. If the Quebec government can uncaringly ignore and rescind such a promised fundamental principle even before the Transfer takes place, what else will Barrette undoubtedly and unhesitatingly do and undo once he has complete command and control in his unyielding grasp?

Losing its "Stand-Alone" status will compel Ste. Anne's to adopt the comparatively substandard protocols and ruinous cost-cutting measures that now prevail across the province. The hospital will then be unable to sustain the high levels of care which our Vets have been repeatedly reassured will be securely safeguarded; which they so desperately need; and which, if I may make so bold, they damn well deserve!

Once Ste. Anne's is forced to comply with provincial protocols and control, punishingly lower wages, plus many other diminished rights and increased restraints, that  will inevitably prompt even more of our remaining experienced and devoted employees to take early retirement or abandon ship for a better work climate.  Nurse-to-patient ratios could be seriously reduced; significant numbers of Registered  Nurses will be replaced by cheaper and less qualified Quebec-minted "Nursing Assistants", unfamiliar with the special needs and problems of coping with geriatric patients, and alien to that particular mix of empathy, understanding,  concern, compassion and commitment to their charges, which constitutes the core culture of our outstanding nurses and orderlies, who comprise the true heart and soul of this (for the moment) fine facility.

Rhetoric and purple prose aside, our thrust here is obvious enough: if the front-line "ground troops" personnel are dissatisfied and/or of poorer calibre and increased indifference, the ricochet effect of Bill 10 will concentrate its collateral damage directly  upon the Veterans. They, in turn,will be deeply displeased, disappointed and defrauded by by the Barrette-born and bred lesser level of basic care and attention. That being the case, good intentions, public promises and federal funding notwithstanding, Veterans Affairs Canada will find itself inexorably incapable of upholding its first and foremost vow to the Veterans at Ste. Anne's, which is/was to continue providing the highest degree of care and  stellar standards of service which have made Ste. Anne's what it is today...not just a cold,  impersonal institution in which the few remaining reminders of WW II can survive, but a welcoming home in which they are encouraged and enabled to thrive, with the full honour and respect that is their due.

Rather than merely murmuring our/ your calm concurrence with this tempestuous tirade, let us all stand up  to do everything we can to protect our Ste. Anne's Hospital venerable yet vulnerable Veterans, and their supporting staff, from the inexorable ravages of Bill 10, regardless of which province you live in.  Write your Member of Parliament !

E-mail the leaders of the federal opposition parties !  Phone the Minister and Deputy Minister of Veterans Affairs Canada !  Stir up your Royal Canadian Legion Branch along with the Provincial and Dominion Commands !  Talk it up at your Regimental or Service Branch/Veterans Association !  Have your Kiwanis Club or other Service Organization undertake the welfare of our band of brothers as one of their prime projects !  Above all, if you reside in Quebec, be sure to communicate your feelings to your own Member of the National Assembly !   It would likely serve little or no purpose to try to gain entry into the obdurate minds and  stone-deaf ears of Barrette and/or his solidly supportive bosom buddy, Premier Philipe Couillard....and to think that both once took the physician's sacred Hippocratic Oath with its everlasting and underlying premise of "Do No Harm"

Whether you do one or more of the actions proposed above (and suffer shame if you don't), for the sake of those who once did, but can no longer serve our country,  DO SOMETHING ! .....MAKE  SOME NOISE !

                                               STAND STRONG for "STAND -ALONE"'
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