Nancy Cooke
From the Centre

There is a lot of negativity about access to services since the pandemic. Media outlets appear to thrive on invoking fear by highlighting alarming statistics and tragic outcomes. This must be working for them as they continue to use this approach when reporting on items related to the pandemic. Is this what readers are clamoring to devour in their daily intake of current events and news? 

I like to believe that people also crave stories of hope. There are many individuals with stories of what is not working but there are also those who are silent on their stories of successful outcomes. These are the stories that need to be shared to provide a glimmer of hope next to the steady stream of negativity.

I am going to share some of the positive experiences of my friends and family over the past few years. 

Like most other Manitobans, I have family members and close friends who were managing chronic illness and addressing new health issues that arose over the last two years. My parents live in rural Manitoba and have historically had to travel to Winnipeg for many aspects of their care. During the pandemic, a few new health issues arose that required regular trips to the city and visits to a specialist. These visits continued a regular basis, uninterrupted by the pandemic. 

The pivot of the healthcare system to provision of virtual care was a game changer for many Manitobans including my family members. Cancercare services for example, were managed virtually and at the new Cancercare Centre in rural Manitoba which limited the need for additional trips to Winnipeg. This access to care closer to home made the unexpected need to engage with Cancercare MB much easier to manage. As access to surgery improved, a previously recommended cataract surgery was completed successfully. 

As a support person for my parents, I have experienced increased engagement from the physicians who are treating them through virtual and phone-based updates which have been easier for me to participate in from Winnipeg. Cancercare services were also extended to a close friend of mine. The fear and uncertainty that come with a cancer diagnosis is terrifying at any time. Receiving this news during a pandemic added an additional layer of fear. Despite this heightened situation my friend was successful in receiving prompt care which involved immediate treatment and regular interaction virtually and in person with the healthcare team. The treatment and support continue today. 

Another family member received urgent treatment related to the sudden emergence of a kidney stone which required responsive, timely management and follow up. Timely care resulted in access to laser surgery to remove the stone and prevent further damage. Care related to rapidly advancing early dementia was provided for another friend’s spouse. This did not come without persistent advocacy for the escalating situation but when the care was needed it was there and resulted in placement of the spouse in a care facility directly from respite. 

In the summer of 2021, a homeless encampment established itself in the Old St Vital Business Improvement Zone. This presented our Biz board with some new challenges. There were reports of increased crime, vandalism, store fronts being smashed, and some businesses were looted. There was stolen power from local businesses and an accumulation of stolen goods from surrounding residential break ins. Safety for both the homeless individuals and the residents and businesses became front and centre as fires were being started as a source of heat and cooking. The board worked with Winnipeg police and Winnipeg Fire Paramedic services to address the urgent issues, but it wasn’t until we connected with St. Boniface Street Links that there was a positive outcome. The team at Street Links connected with everyone to offer them housing and linkages to services in health, mental health, addictions, or employment services. Every individual was housed, and Street Links worked to restore the riverbank to its natural state. 

None of these circumstances are easy for families to deal with. Every family has different challenges in terms of when and how to access care or supports. The stories I share did not happen without the emotional rollercoaster and feelings of being left out of the system or forgotten along the way. What they have in common is the best outcome that could be hoped for regardless of the pandemic. I share these stories to provide a more hopeful perspective about the state of our world.

Extreme examples exist and help to put emphasis on issues, they are not the only experience available to people. I understand and support advocates who are pushing for change and lessons to be understood from crisis situations. This constant negative narrative, however, takes away from the hard work of the dedicated front-line workers who have managed to ensure service delivery in extreme circumstances. I think it’s time for us to move towards understanding and collaboration to create solutions and prevent the failures from being repeated. This is the space where hope can grow.

You can reach Nancy Cooke to comment on this article at [email protected].