Sunday, 13 April 2014

"Making the words work" — Jim Taylor

When Jim Taylor and John Short are sitting across from you at the dinner table, you’re in for a real treat. And, if you happen to be a newspaper reporter like me, listening to two veterans spin stories about their adventures is an unforgettable evening, laced with subtle lessons — just like how they write.

Jim wrote over 7,500 sports columns for newspapers including the Vancouver Sun, Vancouver Province and Calgary Sun. John wrote sports for the Globe and Mail, the Canadian Press, the Edmonton Journal and he is a colleague of mine at the Edmonton Sun.

Jim was in town Thursday to be part a charity event. A few weeks ago he suggested the three of us have dinner “and tell a few stories.”

I just listened. I may have been in the newspaper business for over 30 years, but, frankly, I felt like a journalism student taking his last class.

Jim and John met in the mid-1960’s, decades before the Internet. They relied on notepads and manual typewriters to write their stories and columns. But, more important: their reputation.

Jim gave a great example: he was writing a book with Wayne Gretzky, and several days before Gretzky was traded to Los Angeles, Jim had the story. But he had an agreement with Wayne: not to write anything in the newspaper he discovered while writing the book.

And he didn’t.

I have to wonder if that would have happened in today’s social media.

John says reporters and people they write about these days don’t share time together like they used to — over dinner, or over a cup of coffee. Building relationships are so very important in any business, especially the media.

Funny thing happened, too. Nobody’s cell phone went off once over dinner.

Mrs. Tait joined us and I’m glad she got a glimpse of newspaper reporting years ago.

“I have never heard you so quiet over dinner in the 19 years we’ve been married,” she said.

And that made me wonder if, perhaps, I don’t listen enough.

Twitter @camtait

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Remembering a volunteer's volunteer

By Sharan Sandhu

 Bernie Karcher
A cheerful average height man with military-cut hair walks-in vigilantly across the South East Police Station, bringing smiles on everyone’s face. Left and right, he tosses good-natured greetings with a mysterious smile, acknowledging volunteers and police officers by their names. His  memory borders on uncanny. He heads for yet another volunteer opportunity: his thoughts are focused improving the overall quality of life of fellow Albertans, and the community as a whole.

He moves quickly — so fast that people have come to think of him as a blur: the vague outline of a loose black jacket, accented by a splash of small hair showing few grey streaks. His jacket is draped loosely across his shoulder as if he’s daring the world to grab hold and try to slow him down. 

This was Bernie Karcher.
….Bernie on the right

Bernie had the ability to make people crave to do volunteer work with him. The enthusiasm and support he gave to every volunteer made them find the work fun. As President of Mill Woods Community Patrol Bernie communicated with all  volunteers and treated them with respect, and encouraged them when needed. Bernie tried to get the best out of his team of volunteers by being understanding them and inspiring them.

He made you feel as if you were involved in a very important enterprise, where discipline was the priority and things are going well. He was a great volunteer leader. If you ever patrolled with him, you saw some of the finest traits of him, like his observations, his enthusiasm, his confidence and his witty comments. Bernie Karcher was quick but not hasty, committed but not rigid, analytical but did not over-analyze and he was thoughtful, but is not obsessive. The people who knew him from many years say that he could smell the problems in the community when he was patrolling, and that was the reason that he spent good time attending courts.

Among all the action, Bernie sat with his Blackberry/laptop or iPad with his small glasses sitting on his nose and then went about his work. He updated  the volunteer status, looked at new volunteer applications, studied newly introduced laws and legislations to be introduced and so much more.  He could easily multi-task. But the amazing thing is that Bernie occasionally threw comments into all the conversations that are happening around him. It always amazed me that he could concentrate intently on his volunteer work, professional work and still know what was going on with his family.

Bernie was very well aware of his professional, personal and volunteer responsibilities and amazingly he keep a perfect balance. He was available wherever he was required, and he showed up for everything because he just wanted to be there to show that it mattered. That’s why he was a terrific human being: he understood the importance of being there, of being having a presence, and of showing up.
The best thing about Bernie Karcher was that being the head of Mill Woods Community Patrol, he did not command excellence; he built excellence. In his words, excellence is “being all you can be” within the bounds of doing what is right for the organization.

Bernie was a recipient of many awards, including the 2009 Harry Hole Community Policing and the Good Neighbours Award. On May 10, 2013, another feather was attached to his cap — the 22nd Annual Crime Prevention Award for 2013 for Mill Woods Community Patrol in the category of Police-Community Collaboration.
In my opinion  Bernie  was a true role model for every volunteer to make Alberta an exemplary place to live in.
This is the person that was: the person who died on March 27th.

He touched many people through his volunteer efforts with MWCP, Operation Red Nose, the Edmonton Indy, the MS Bike Tour, Santas Anonymous, the Progress Club, World Triathalon, the Mill Woods Presidents’ Council, Mill Woods Canada Day celebrations. Bernie constantly made the extra effort to reach out and make a difference in somebody’s life. His cool-headed and positive approach to every situation struck a chord with thousands of people he interacted with, along with me. His irreverent sense of humor and love for helping people of any background will ensure that he will never be forgotten. 

Rest in Peace, Bernie Karcher.
…Bernie in the blue shirt

Click here to send an email

We're back blogging with a new name: TAIT ON 8

Ah, what the hell: I’ll have a Coke.
It’s been a while since I’ve posted a blog. In fact, thelast was way back in the fall when I was mad at Coca-Cola. But we can’t stay mad at something forever, right? So I’m going to fire up the blog again because there’s so much to share.
I March 20 joined the Edmonton Sun as a columnist. Tait on 8 is the name and we sharing good news in the Edmonton area. The response has been overwhelming. And we have so many great stories to write that, unfortunately, we can’t get them in two columns in the Sun and Edmonton Examiner. So we’re going to use my blog to help out.

Like, Wednesday. Mill Woods Community patrol acting president Sharan Shandon sent an email about Bernie Karcher.
Shandon says Bernie was a dedicated volunteer and was very well known throughout the community. Sharan wrote a very nice piece about his friend Bernie and we’re going to post it, including pictures, tonight or first thing Wednesday.
So I really want to hear from you about good things going on in your life.

It’s funny, isn’t it? We’ve all heard people say “whenever you’re going through a rough period call me — I’m always here to listen”? And that’s great.

But when your life is on fire, when things are going great, when you’ve reached one of your dreams, I would like to know.
Please share.

Twitter @camtait.

(Please visit Challenge Insurance where I work as a special projects advisor.)

Friday, 20 September 2013

The Tait Debate: Shame on Coca-cola

I may have very well sipped my last Coca-cola. The soft drink giant is in the throws of a promotional campaign where words, in English and French, are engraved in caps and customers are urged to put words together. In a news story Friday, Shannon Denny, director of brand communications with Coca-Cola Refreshments Canada, said the idea is for folks to put together humorous sentences. But there was nothing funny when the words “You retard” showed up in Blake Loates’ husband’s Vitaminwater cap bottle, a Coke product.

What was especially concerning to Loates is her sister has a younger sister who with autism and cerebral palsy. The R-word? Very demeaning — even derogatory — to people with disabilities. I know: I have cerebral palsy, a physical disability. Yet, over my five decades, I have been called a retard. I find that offensive. In September of 2013 I find it very, very offensive and in extreme bad taste from Coca-cola. They should hang their heads in unforgiveable shame.

In French, Denny says, retard means delayed. I really could care less. The mere fact Coca-cola decided to use the word is simply wrong. It shows their pathetic and archaic way of thinking, and says volumes about how they view people with disabilities.

And I really have to wonder. Because for all of my adult life I know organizations and associations promoting the abilities of people with disabilities have worked hard — damn hard — to create proper language. Such efforts try to create positive awareness so people with disabilities can be seen as people. Not names. Yet, time and time again, we hear of stories of negative terminology being used. I wonder if the hard work of people with disabilities are, in fact, being listened to. The Coca-cola story is certainly disheartening.

I think I’m going to mix myself a stiff drink. And I know one thing: I won’t be using a Coca-cola product for mix.


Ending poverty begins by looking at it, face to face

From the outset, it could very well be too much to ask: how do we end poverty? How? How can we as a community even begin to start to chip away at such a monumental issue with so many challenges, which seemingly leads to dead ends? The answer is very simple, really: we have to acknowledge it. That’s what happened Thursday when the 2013 Alberta Capital Region United Way campaign kicked of in Edmonton at the Expo Centre with 700-plus supporters in attendance. This year’s campaign has a lofty goal — $23.6 million — and took a diversion from past campaign kick-offs.
In the past, kick-off lunches have been inspired with stories from people who have benefited from United Way programs and agencies. They have ranged from convicted criminals, to single parent families, to people with disabilities, to people with addiction issues and many more. Their stories have been inspiring. They have shown United Way dollars changing their lives. Yet, there has been common theme in almost all of them: poverty. Because if you don’t have money, maybe you turn to crime; if you don’t have money to provide for your family, maybe you turn against the people you love the most and break up your family; if you don’t have money and you become disabled and can’t get proper resources, maybe you turn to drugs or alcohol.
“Imagine this. Each and every day you wake up, you are focused on one thing – surviving - day-by-day.  You’re not sure if there will be enough money to meet the rent, pay the heat or put food on the table for your family,” United Way campaign chair Gary Bosgoed described to the crowd.  “Your transportation is limited. You catch a lift with friends, you walk or you take public transit – that is, when you have bus money.  And university for your kids?  Well, that’s for other people. Your biggest worry today is finding the money to buy their school supplies – and as for the class field trip, that’s just not in the budget.”
The numbers are quite staggering, Poverty is a way of life for 120,000 people in the Alberta Capital Region. And here’s the figure that is most startling: 37,000 are children. “Kids,” says Bosgoed, “who aren’t concerned about the latest in video games or fashion trends – but they are concerned about getting enough to eat.”  Under those conditions opportunities can be hard to come by and the challenges can become endless.
Yet, there is hope. United Way has done extensive research and has come up with a plan: Creating Pathways Out of Poverty. Funds from this year’s United Way campaign will go to three key areas: education of children from early years to high school to help them reach their full potential; providing income support to folks who are homeless or have low incomes, and creating wellness, physically and mentally, without the worry of fear and violence in our communities.
“Poverty is not something that one organization, government or group can tackle alone. It takes all of us working together with measurable and specific goals in mind,” says Bosgoed.
Perhaps, then, the question isn’t how can we end poverty, but rather this: How can we not?
(Cam Tait is a semi-retired Edmonton Journal columnist who is the Special Project Advisor for Challenge Insurance in Edmonton.) 

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

The Sept 17 Tait Debate: Teenagers perform home care for mother when workers fail to show up

Susan Beaudoin

Susan Beaudion is a proud mother of two teenagers and she wants to care for them and give them as many opportunities as she can. But it’s been very hard to do that lately and because Susan needs her kids to help with when home care workers don’t arrive for scheduled visits: her teenagers  help her getting dressed and helping her onto the toilet. That’s the reality for the 43-year-old woman who has had multiple sclerosis for 23 years and uses a wheelchair. Susan is supposed to get help from WeCare Health Services four times a day to help her get up in the morning, dressed and go to bed in her Beaumont home.

But ever since Aug. 1 when We Care signed a new contract with Alberta Health Services Susan has not had home care workers show up for several shifts. On Monday night her scheduled help did not show up and she had to put herself to bed. Other times she relies on family and friends for help. “Any transfers to the toilet, or meals were done by my kids who are teenagers,” she says of a recent Sunday when her help didn’t show. “But they should not have sole responsibility of their mother's care. They helped me to get into bed that night.”

Susan says the problems started when AHS changed the We Care contract. Since Aug. 1, We Care home care workers are not being fully paid for mileage for visits in non-Edmonton towns. We Care employees now have to pay for a significant portion of operation a vehicle out of their own pocket. “Before the August cutbacks I had three regular homecare workers that did above and beyond what was needed,” says Susan. “They became my friends and they treated me with dignity and respect. They have left because they could not afford to stay. They had to find other jobs because they had bills to pay too. They all loved their jobs before the cutbacks.”

We e-mailed Don Fraser in the Edmonton We Care office twice for him to comment on the missed visits. E-mails were not responded to. Mr. Fraser is welcome to respond at the end of this blog post.

Susan says sometimes the We Care office calls her to say nobody comes. Sometimes not. And that leads to confusion: One day Susan was called and said nobody would be filling the shift. Then, someone did arrive 30 minutes and helped her but nobody came for the rest of the day.

Susan says it is very mentally taxing just not knowing who is coming and when. “I am exhausted! Trying to always try to cover for the lack of care I am receiving. Trying to keep a house going with minimal care when I receive it.  This has totally affected my plans because I need to have my friends and family stop just being family and friends to become being caregivers.  We can't have fun and socialize but now they have to help me, too.”

Susan continues: “My home does not feel like a home with complete strangers coming in and out. Daily it is changing. Having the same caregivers come regular is so important because you form a trust with that person. It takes time to tell them (someone new) and showing them, and then in return receive minimal care. It is like asking a complete stranger to do something personal for you, (and) you don't want to.”

Susan has reported the missed visits to her case manager. Her case manager is upset with the situation and has recorded the information. “I am hoping that more people that speak out that this will be rectified. I think they (We Care) are going to have to pay their staff better which includes travel especially outside the city,” he says. “I am feeling so frustrated with this that I don't know what else to say. I guess before I felt like a contributing person in society and now I feel like I am trying to exist.”

(Cam Tait is a semi-retired journalist who has cerebral palsy and uses home care in Edmonton)

Keep the conversation going by clicking here 

Friday, 13 September 2013

The Sept. 13 Tait Debate: A sentimental journey in a '72 Cutlass Supreme

When Garry Meyer emailed me Wednesday to say he would be by Thursday morning to pick me up in his 1972 convertible Cutlass Supreme, my reaction was “Yeah, yeah. Sure, sure.” I’ve known Garry for years as a great master of ceremonies for events and a great practical joker. Nineteen-seventy-two Cutlass? A convertible? Bring on the pictures. But then, just after 9 a.m., Garry was in front of my place, adjusting the top in a brown ’72 Cutlass Supreme. “We’ll take the top down for the ride back,” Garry said.

All summer long Garry and I have been planning a trip from Edmonton to Camrose to visit a mutual friend. Thursday was the day. Away we went on a warm fall morning where I learned about the brown Cutlass. When I got in one look at the dashboard took me back to my teenage years: an AM radio with a needle indicating the station frequency, little metal levers for the heat, long rods on the passenger side for air vents on the side of the vehicle and laps belts minus the shoulder harness. We weren’t even five minutes away from my place when people started honking horns and flashing the thumbs up. People loved see the car. “I once had someone leave me a note on the windshield saying if I ever wanted to sell it call — and there was a woman’s phone number attached to it,” says Garry. Another time he ran into the wife of the car’s original owner in a Sherwood Park parking lot where she thanked Garry for taking such good care of the car.

But he has no plans to sell the car. In fact, he restored the vehicle twice, the last being when he put a 350 Rocket under the hood. He loves driving it and has wheeled it down to Montana.

Garry hasn’t named given the car a name: he doesn’t have to. Garry bought the car from  Stedelbauer Chevrolet on July 13, 1983 the day before his mother went to the Misercordia Hospital for a routine cancer check-up. The next day Mrs. Meyer passed away. “On both sides of the car I have HMM engraved,” Garry says of his mother’s initials.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

The Sept. 11 Tait Debate that's actually a rant (please click here for more)

I knew the new cancellation policy the Disabled Adult Transit Service would smack me. I just didn’t know how hard it would smack me until Wednesday morning. DATS is asking users to cancel their rides two hours before their pick-up. Now let me share my Wednesday morning: at 10:11 a.m. I received an e-mail from the person I was going to meet for lunch. He had to cancel. Out of respect for DATS I called and cancelled my ride, scheduled for 10:45 a.m. The operator on the telephone said I would be marked a no-show because I did not give two hours notice. My response was “That’s not fair because my schedule changed and I could not help it.” The operator countered by saying I should call DATS Community Relations to discuss and better plan my trips.

I am not happy.

I could have gone for lunch myself, I suppose. But that really didn’t appeal to me. I am a busy person and there are many other things I need to get done today. Even though lunch would have been nice, I can use the time to get my work done.  Makes sense, doesn’t it? Yet, I get my knuckles slapped and am told I need to plan better. How? How does DATS expect people plan for the unexpected?

Would have DATS rather me not call and cancel, some 32 minutes before my trip, and have to driver show up in front of my door and ring my bell, only to me told I wasn’t taking the trip? I’ll take that debate any day.

But what really frustrated is the tone DATS has: that users have change of plans. That’s one of the byproducts of being contributing to the community and, most importantly, making connections. But to be reprimanded and to be felt like you have committed a cardinal sin is, simply, wrong. It also discourages independence and could lead to some folks wondering why they should even bother to make plans when DATS shakes their finger at them.

I don’t think that’s very fair.

And if you have any experiences like this — or know of someone who has — please share your at the bottom of this post or click here.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

The Sept. 10 Tait Debate: Thirty home care visits missed in Leduc over the weekend (PLEASE CLICK HERE FOR MORE)

More than 30 people scheduled for home care services in Leduc did not have their shifts covered Sunday. WeCare Home Health Services employee  Cindy Mielke posted the situation on Facebook Sunday before she said she became aware of the situation at 8 a.m. Mielke who has 16 years of experience, was in the Leduc WeCare office when she was told the shifts were not covered by staff. “It’s very unusual,” she said through an email exchange. “I used to be a co-odinator with WeCare. If the weekend and nightly shifts were not booked we stayed late and got them  booked.”

But with Alberta Health Services re-vamping home care recently, staff are leaving the positions. Wages have been cut as well as vehicle allowances for staff. Mielke has seen the damage first-hand. One of her regular clients recently went an entire weekend without getting help for a bowel routine. “I got a phone call at 10:15 one Saturday morning asking if I would go but I was already in Red Deer for the weekend.  WeCare couldn’t fill her shifts,” she says. Two days later Mielke went into work with the woman and she says it was a disaster. “Because she went all weekend without she became very incontinent in her bed and she was deeply embarrassed. Poor woman,” she says. Mielke has also heard of people not getting a bath for a month because of shifts not being filled.

There’s another alarming side of this story: the mental anguish of people with disability being uncertain of personal care attendants not coming. Wondering if you will get help or not can grind a person down. It can dampen one’s confidence to live in the community … independently. The sad thing here is the provincial government is not paying much respect to personal care attendants. Mielke says she’s feeling like a newspaper carrier, rather than someone who provides needed personal care. “AHS needs to understand the rights of the ones who are disabled and or elderly.  I help people with their daily living. I hope I give them dignity and self-respect,” she says. “People that are going through issues, whether it’s having a hard time growing old and all the complications that go with it. Or, ones suffering from disabilities and all the things they go through in a daily manner.”

Wages show respect. But Mielke doesn’t see it. She runs her vehicle for 60 cents per kilometre but is paid  40 cents per kilometre, one way, when she travels to help people in rural Alberta. That means she dips into her own pocket. Clearly, it isn’t worth her while and says, after calculations at $17 per hour, she’s making less than minimum wage. “I’d be making more at Wal-Mart where my car is parked for eight hours,” she says.

And that’s a real shame. Because it takes someone special with understanding, patience and a giant heart to be a personal care attendant.
“I think it’s the love of money, prestige and power,” Mielke says of the current dimise of home care in Alberta. “Until they (AHS) find themselves in a similar position, they really don’t give a damn.”

Front line home care workers need to be paid more. They have to be: otherwise more visits are going to be missed. There were over 30 visits missed Sunday. And, that’s 30 too many.

(Cam Tait has cerebral palsy and uses home care in Edmonton)


Monday, 9 September 2013

The Sept. 9 Tait Debate: Steve Hogle once again has the look of being a rookie

Steve Hogle
On a warm evening in June of 1973 a dark curly-haired 13-year-old sat on the end of the baseball bench along the third baseline of Jubilee Park in west Edmonton. He was a rookie. Didn’t play much. But he was eager, ready to learn and had a confident — although not cocky — attitude, which clearly showed he was ready for anything. That’s was my introduction to Steve Hogle. And that same image, four decades old this summer, replayed itself last Thursday: Steve was wearing a suit and tie, replacing the red and white baseball uniform, sitting on the end of a table, looking poised and ready. Once again, he’s a rookie — this time as president of the Western Hockey League Saskatoon Blades.

I spoke to Steve about 10 days back. He had taken a leave from the Edmonton Oilers as vice-president of communications. Not looking for a change, he said a wonderful opportunity surfaced. He needed time away to think about it. The reporter in me was begging to ask the question of what that might be; the friendship in me whispered “Nah, leave it alone. He won’t tell you anyway.” So I did. Steve did, however, grant me this: “It’s hockey related.” Edmonton Journal sportswriter Jim Matheson wrote a story Wednesday about the Saskatoon Blade sale from Jack Brodisky to Edmonton car dealership owner Mike Preistner. The president of the team, Matty wrote, would be my old friend Steve, a long-time friend of Preistner’s. The day after the story ran in The Journal, the Blades new ownership was introduced. Sure enough. Steve was there in his new role as president.

(Please click here for Steve's interview Friday on CTV Morning Live.)

Over the years, Steve and I have bumped into each other countless times. He father Bruce was a tremendous television news reporter and then manager. Steve followed his dad’s legacy, working his way up to director of news and public affairs with CTV Edmonton. He left television to become vice-president of communications for the Alberta
Bruce Hogle
Research Council in 2007. Then he joined long-time friend and Oiler owner Daryl Katz in a communications role during negotiations between the team and the city on a new downtown arena. After the arena deal was secure, Steve turned his talents to the Oilers, overseeing broadcast operations and website content.

Whenever we talked hockey always entered the conversation. He often fed me stories of up and coming minor hockey players in Edmonton to write about when I was an Edmonton Journal sportswriter. Steve loves to see people succeed. He’s also been a great friend to me. When I took a buy-out from The Journal in 2012 he was the first person to call and see how I was. He told me the best my part of my life, while unknown, was just around the corner.

Now, it’s my turn to return the favor as Steve enters his new chapter in life. Given his eagerness in his eyes and how he relates to people I have no doubt Steve Hogle will have super Saskatoon success.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

The Sept. 7 Tait Debate: An invitation for ice cream with my grandson to those who think we received preferential treatment (CLICK FOR MORE)

Our grandson Nicholas in our living room (AFTER SCHOOL)
Just a little after 7:30 a.m. weekdays my day begins when my 10-year-old grandson Nicholas walks into our bedroom door and leaps on to our bed. First, he gives my wife Joan a big hug to start the morning and then rolls over to my side. “’Morning, Papa,” Nicholas says, often punctuated by a long yawn. I pull myself out of bed, get into my wheelchair and watch cartoons while Joan cooks and gives him breakfast. It has been our way of life  for five months now after Nicholas’ mother passed away from cancer. Our son Darren drops him off in the morning.  Joan drives Nicholas to school in the morning, takes him lunch and then picks him up in the afternoon. Nothing was going to stop Joan and I from providing the best environment for Nicholas and a time when he needed it the most.

But we came very close to losing that. Very close. In June Alberta Health Services decided to re-vamp home care by dismantling many successful programs. I have cerebral palsy and require assistance in bathing, dressing and other things. Since 1997 Joan and I have lived in a condominium with 24-hour home care. Under the brilliant leadership of founder Larry Pempeit who formed Creekside Support Services — a non-profit group — 14 people with physical disabilities in the Creekside complex live independently … all because of home care. That wasn’t good enough, it seemed for AHS. In fact, they told us a new homecare provider would be coming in, with new staff, who, incidentally, might be on-site 24 hours a day like we had.

It scared me. I was afraid I might have to move into a nursing home. Nicholas wasn’t ready for that, I said to myself. It would also mean I could no longer be the grandfather I wanted to be. So we fought like hell. The day before we met AHS officials and were told of the changes, my neighbor Heidi Janz and I had a chat.
Alison Redford
What if, we wondered, we asked Alberta premier Alison Redford for coffee to share our story? So we did on this very blog. (Have a look here.) The day after I received an e-mail from Redford’s press aide Neala Barton saying our invitation had been accepted. We met Redford five days later and within 48 hours our meeting, the AHS decision was reversed. We still have our homecare program intact.

Last week Creekside Support Services came under fire in a report (click here) on how the home care contracts were handed out. One unnamed company is claiming we got preferential treatment because we met with Redford, causing Calgary Herald columnist Don Braid to chime in on the debate.
Hedi Janz

I find this very petty. So does my friend Heidi who replied Friday with this. One has to wonder if this company even asked for a meeting. Funny what happens when a requests are made ... I would suspect the got in a huff because the reversal had a huge financial impact on them.  For me, it was personal. It was about my family, and it was about having existing services in place so I can be the best husband, father and grandfather I can be. It’s about the circle of care: because I am cared for, I can care for others.

Homecare isn’t just about dollars and cents. It’s about empowering people to be the best they can be. So rather than inviting this unnamed company for coffee, I’m inviting them for ice cream with Nicholas and I. They can ask Nicholas how much fun it is jumping on Papa every morning to wake him up  — and then draw their own conclusions.

Nicholas in our living room playing trains

Friday, 6 September 2013

Sept. 6 Tait Debate: Guest blogger Dr. Heidi Janz on home care report (click here for more)

How Does Granting a Plea for Dialogue to Save Our Independence Become “Preferential Treatment”?

by Dr. Heidi Janz

In a Calgary Herald column which appeared on September 4, 2013, Don Braid reports:

In a long report on clumsy and insensitive AHS handling of new homecare contracts, there’s a startling line on page 88 that instantly rang political gongs on Wednesday.

Some homecare providers vying for contracts, the document says, “were upset that other service providers that had approached the Premier received preferential treatment and in their view this option should be available to other providers.”

The wider finding of the report, ordered up by Health Minister Fred Horne, is that Alberta Health Services kind of forgot about the people who need home care when it started awarding big contracts to private national companies.

That jolted AHS and led to a reshuffling of contracts, some of them away from big outfits like Ontario’s Bayshore, and back to worthy non-profits that have served Albertans for decades.

But the full report didn’t come to light until Wednesday … And it contained that explosive suggestion — repeated without elaboration — that Premier Alison Redford was somehow playing favourites behind the scenes.

Redford herself didn’t comment Wednesday. But her press aide, Neala Barton, says the only relevant meeting on Redford’s schedule was with an Edmonton co-op agency in June.           

This was well publicized at the time, mainly because one of the players is the remarkable Cam Tait, blogger, and longtime Edmonton Journal writer who has been afflicted with cerebral palsy all his life.

Now, in the interests of full  disclosure, let me confess that it was I, along  with friends and fellow Creekside Support Services users Tait and founder Larry Pempeit,  who conspired to unduly influence Premier Redford to reverse a wrong-headed  decision by AHS to blow up our user-run homecare services, and hand over all control of our personal care—and, with it, practically all control over our lives—to a big-box, for-profit homecare provider. For anyone interested in the facts of what such an arbitrary change in homecare provider would have meant for us, here they are:

·      No longer were we 14 Creekside users with physical disabilities to have any say at all in where, when, or by whom our personal care was provided.
·      We were going to lose all of our current health care aides—many of whom had worked with us for 10 years or more.
·      We would no longer be able to receive personal care services outside our home. For some of us, this would mean no longer being able to go to school or work.
·      According to the representatives of Alberta Health Services  Homecare, with whom we met just five days before we met with Premier Redford, there was no guarantee that the new service provider would be able to provide the 24/7 care that many of us require, and currently receive.

If any of you are surprised by any of these facts, you’re in good company—so was Premier Redford. My own sense is that it was being presented with the real effects that this decision was going to have on real people that affected the reversal of this decision.

So, to those unnamed applicants accusing us of unduly influencing the Premier, I would simply ask this: Would the decision on who was awarded Homecare contracts affect any aspect of your personal life, other than perhaps the size of your bank account? Would it affect when (or if) you get  up in the morning?  When (or if) you can use the bathroom? Who cleans you after you use the bathroom?

If you’ve answered “yes”  to any of the preceding questions, we owe you an apology.

If not, I’d  say, you owe us one.

To keep the conversation going please click here

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

The September 4, 2013 Tait Debate: Q and A with DATS director Deanna Crozier

Deanna Crozier, director of the Disabled Adult Transit Service, joined us on a Q and A on the new two-hour cancellation policy.

1)  Were you surprised by the feedback you received on the two-hour cancellation policy?
Crozier: "If DATS users, caregivers, and families have feedback on this matter, it surprises me they didn’t contact DATS directly. To date, we have received only 25 non-favourable calls to DATS Community Relations, e mails and correspondence. In addition, some of the e mails and contacts were forwarded to us from other sources. I replied to all e mails and written correspondence and advised I was available to meet. To date, I’ve had one call back.

In the DATS Customer Care Centre, we have had questions, clarifications, and many scenarios posed as well as comments like “it’s about time”. Many users challenge us to be more efficient. The introduction of the 2 hour cancellation notice is one way we’re addressing this challenge.

Customer feedback comes to us in a variety of forms. In addition to our standard tools, we now have the opportunity to engage our customers through social media. A challenge for us is the immediacy and “free flowing” aspect of social media. We need to ensure our responses are timely but also accurate.  This poses a communication challenge that we have been and will continue to pursue with our City communication liaisons.

2)     DATS users were not asked for their input on this. Why?
Crozier: "DATS stakeholders were asked for their input.

"We use the DATS Advisory Group (DAG) to provide ongoing input in the planning and operation of DATS – this was discussed at their meetings. We also send items for the Edmonton Transit System Advisory Board’s Manager’s Report – this topic was included twice.

The DATS Newsletter is a key communication tool for us. Bi – monthly newsletters are distributed in print (regular and large) and electronic formats as well as on CD’s.. We solicit customer feedback on items included in the newsletters and include our contact info in every issue. As noted above, we didn’t receive much input on this issue. As well, we issued a specific Customer Bulletin on this issue and solicited feedback - we received minimal response.

3)As an user I was somewhat disappointed in the explanation in the DATS newsletter on working late and feel comparing it to a car-pool and, in fact, I don't understand that. How does a car pool and a public-funded transportation system draw a parallel each other?

Crozier: “Both are a pre-arranged ride and if it’s frequent, some of our customers have worked with their employers to make it more of a formal arrangement.”

4)    Do you see this as perhaps an opportunity to build a better relationship of understanding between DATS users and administration?
Crozier: “Overall, we have a good relationship as evidenced by the annual customer satisfaction surveys. However we believe any and all contact with customers is an opportunity to build better relationships.”

5)Do you think if there would have been more consultation with users there might have been a buy-in from customers?

Crozier: “Based on customer reaction when we introduced the change, there haven’t been customer issues. To date, we’re pleased with customer buy in.”
6)   How was the time of 7 a.m. determined for the no-show policy not to be in effected? Were users asked?

Crozier: “It isn’t possible to provide 2 hours notice for trips before 7 am week-days and 8 am week-ends and Stat Holidays – staff aren’t in until 5 week-days and 6 week-ends and holidays to accept cancels.”

7)   When and how do you think you will see the two-hour policy be beneficial to DATS?
Crozier: “This change is designed to benefit both customers and DATS Administration. This allows DATS to be more efficient with the yearly budget approved by City Council and maintain/improve service to our customers. For example:

·    More same day customer trips accommodated and perhaps at different time periods;
·    Better (and more) accommodation for “ready early” customer requests;
·    Improved on-time performance for customer trips and perhaps at different time periods.

8)  DATS has said the city is growing. Are there plans for a budget increase to address the city's growth?
Crozier: “The growth to the peripheries of the city poses scheduling efficiency issues. Continuous improvement in scheduling has been a focus for quite some time. This additional cancellation notice will help DATS be more efficient in scheduling and service delivery.

Our strategy is to maintain our current budget. One of our goals is to accommodate increased demand for DATS by assisting customers to make better use of regular ETS bus and LRT.”

9)  Please list three things why you think the two-hour cancellation policy will assist DATS in the next three years?

Same as #7 above:

·    More same day customer trips accommodated and perhaps at different time periods;
·    Better (and more) accommodation for “ready early” customer requests;
·    Improved on-time performance for customer trips and perhaps at different time periods.