HEU members in Salmon Arm and Kamloops fight to save seniors' services

HEU members fight to protect seniors’ services in Kamloops and Salmon Arm

Communities pull together to prevent closure of residential care facilities

Protests have been growing more frequent in recent months in B.C. interior towns like Salmon Arm and Kamloops as health care workers join forces with others to fight planned closures of residential care facilities that seniors in their communities depend upon.

People are organizing in those two communities to prevent the closure of Ponderosa Lodge and Pioneer Lodge, both long-term care facilities that the Interior Health Authority unveiled would be closed in their health care restructuring announcement of last April.

Kamloops HEU members from Ponderosa, Overlander Extended Care, Royal Inland Hospital, Thrupp Manor and Pinegrove formed a coalition to fight the closure of Ponderosa soon after the IHA announcement. Now they meet every Tuesday night, welcoming family members of Ponderosa residents to join in their fight to keep the public facility open and running.

An announcement in January that the IHA had awarded a contract to Retirement Concepts Services Ltd. to build a new 89-bed public/private facility in Kamloops to “replace” the 192-bed Ponderosa has not slowed down or stopped the fight. On March 25, HEU members went to the city’s council chambers, seeking support in their campaign to keep the facility open.

Councillor Peter Sharp, chair of the regional hospital district, promised to take the workers’ concerns to a meeting with IHA officials in Kelowna and follow up with a report to the council.

The community of Salmon Arm is just as committed to keeping Pioneer Lodge open for the 75 seniors that call it home.

Health care workers from several HEU locals and the B.C. Nurses’ Union have joined forces with the Salmon Arm People’s Coalition to prevent the closure of Pioneer.

On March 24, coalition members protested outside the offices of MLA George Abbot’s office, while five went inside to present a 2,500-signature petition protesting the public facility’s closure. The protests have been on-going since December of last year, and this was the third inside of a month.

Things may heat up even more after the coalition hosted a workshop in early April on political organizing and creative resistance.