The daughter of a 77-year-old woman who was attacked in the summer spoke out against cuts to Alberta’s mental health-care system at an NDP health-care forum on Tuesday afternoon.
A plan to close 246 mental health beds at Alberta Hospital in Edmonton likely delayed a psychiatric assessment of the man accused of the crime and prolonged the ordeal for her mother, the woman said.
“I need a psych assessment so he can enter a plea. We need a plea so we can either have a trial or not — so we can get justice,” said the daughter who cannot be identified to protect her mother’s identity.
“We want to move on — that’s it,” she said at the forum held at the Red Deer Lodge that attracted about 20 people.
The alleged robbery and sexual assault happened while the woman was walking to the grocery store near 67th Street and 52nd Avenue at 10 a.m. on July 29.
She said Alberta Health Services ignored her requests for help.
The cuts to health-care services started when Ralph Klein was premier and Premier Ed Stelmach is making more cuts and it’s ordinary citizens of Alberta who are going to be in danger from people who cannot get assessment and treatment, she said.
“At what point in time does this become a safety issue. Who’s going to have to die?”
The NDP opposition are hosting seven forums around the province to find out the public’s concerns, views and solutions on health care and will produce a report for the fall sitting of the Alberta Legislature.
“We’ll be using it as our basis to protect our public health-care system and to strengthen it,” said NDP leader Brian Mason.
Nine back-to-back presentations were made at the two-hour Red Deer forum.
Mason said people are worried about what the government will do next to the health care system.
“The Conservatives said almost nothing about health care in the last election and waited until they were elected before launching this chaotic scheme to restructure our health care system.”
Usually people are afraid for their jobs, but now doctors from Alberta Hospital, nursing students trying to enter the workforce, and others are speaking up, he said.
Dean Cunningham, a registered psychiatric nurse since 1973 at Ponoka’s Centennial Centre for Mental Health and Brain Injury, said the bed closures at the Edmonton hospital will have a “horrendous” impact on the Ponoka hospital.
“The clients we will be receiving will be increasingly difficult if we see a decrease in mentally ill treatment beds in this province,” Cunningham said.
“Those with only moderate special needs may well be left out in the cold. It’s going to be horrid.”
Next week, health care discussion will continue when Alberta Liberal leader David Swann hosts a public forum on seniors’ health care on Oct. 19, from 6:30 to 9 p.m. at the Golden Circle.