Ex-MP Peter Stoffer 'very disturbed' by Petter Blindheim case
Blindheim fighting for care in Camp Hill veterans hospital, but Liberal minister says he can't help
A retired NDP MP is "very disturbed" to see the Canadian government deny long-term care to a 94-year-old veteran in Halifax.
"I'm very disturbed, upset and pissed off, if I may be honest, with the situation that's happening to Petter Blindheim, a 94-year-old Allied veteran. He's in failing health and we're not sure how many years or months this man has left," Peter Stoffer said Thursday.
Stoffer worked more than 18 years as the NDP veterans affairs critic and on Thursday he held a news conference with Karen Blendheim Higgins and Peter Blendheim, the daughter and son of Petter Blindheim. (The children changed the spelling of their last name.)
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"He has served with great distinction during World War Two, he is an honoured gentleman and he's one of our Canadian heroes, he's one of our international heroes," Stoffer said.
"Now is the time for Canada to step up to the plate and offer this man and his family the care and dignity that he so rightfully deserves."
Blindheim applied through Veterans Affairs Canada for coverage at Camp Hill Veterans' Memorial hospital. His family has received three rejection letters stating he isn't eligible.
'Nothing' stopping Kent Hehr
Stoffer said the Liberal government first denied the Norway-born Blindheim was an Allied veteran, which Stoffer said was an insult to the man and his family. Now that decision is reversed, but there are "certain medical hurdles" that he must satisfy if he is to be let in.
Stoffer called on Kent Hehr, the minister of Veterans Affairs, to step in. "Nothing is stopping the minister from using his authority to allow Mr. Blindheim to go in there."
The minister has said he doesn't have the power to do that.
"I have my authorities and we're working within those authorities to see that every veteran who needs long-term care gets the long-term care that they need," Hehr told CBC News at 6.
In the interview, the minister evaded questions dealing with Blindheim's case. In a technical briefing Wednesday, Veterans Affairs Canada said they couldn't talk about the Blindheim case specifically due to privacy issues.
'He is upset'
Blendheim Higgins said her dad can't speak for himself. She said he was injured during the war and continues to deal with those issues.
"He is upset. He does not understand the process, he simply doesn't understand why," she said. "I want people to understand how emotionally difficult this is on my dad."
During a mental-health assessment to see if he is eligible to get into the care facility, she was "outraged" by the sort of questions he had to answer.
'As long as there is hope, there is life'
"Specifically, one of the questions was: do you feel that life is hopeless? Tell me how there is any justification in asking somebody this at this age, during this process," she said.
"His response was, 'As long as there is hope, there is life.'"
She said he's twice been to hospital in the last year for a hurt back. He later had a blackout in the bathroom, fell and broke his arm.
"His life at this time is sleeping in bed and being wheeled in a wheelchair by my mother, who has chronic health conditions, to a chair in the living room where he spends his day," she said. "You tell me how this is good care."
Right to care
Peter Blendheim said his father has a right to the care. "If it's not for veterans, what's it for?" he said of Camp Hill.
He said Veterans Affairs now insists he meet "special conditions" to get into Camp Hill, which means he needs care he could not get in a regular nursing home — for example, if he had a contagious disease.
The family expects an update from Veterans Affairs this week, but don't expect good news.
If that is the case, the family — and Stoffer — plan to appeal and keep fighting.
"The compassionate — the right thing — to do is to end this nonsense of more bureaucratic delays, more letters, more everything else," Stoffer said.
"Minister Hehr, just pick up the phone, call the Blendheims, admit him today and allow him to live whatever time he has left on this planet in restored dignity and in the health care he deserves."
With files from Shaina Luck