Future support uncertain for brain injury patients in the Columbia Valley

The way support systems are serving people with brain injuries in the Columbia Valley may be changing.

The way support systems are serving people with brain injuries in the Columbia Valley may be changing.

The East Kootenay Brain Injury Association (EKBIA) non-profit will be shuttering services for families accessing its services when the contract closes on July 31st, leaving as many as 40 clients from Golden to Invermere in the dark about what happens to their support system next.

“My concern is that EKBIA is finished on July 31st,” said Debbie Gudjonson, EKBIA outreach worker. “Interior Health had put out a (RFP) that was up on June 4th. I have no idea who got the contract, but the contract was totally different than the contract that EKBIA ran under.”

The EKBIA contract provided for 4,900 hours a year, she said.

“Now what they’ve done is they’ve taken Golden out of the Cranbrook-Invermere district and put Golden with Revelstoke, and they’ve allotted 648 annual hours, which, in 52 weeks, works out to 6.15 hours a week and Cranbrook, Elkford, Sparwood, Creston and (the) area right (up) to Radium (were) allotted 869 hours to service 10 different communities. At 52 weeks, that works out to 1.67 hours a week per community.”

Gudjonson criticized the decision and believes it is not in the best interest of anybody she serves.

“Right now, to date, I work with six to eight clients between Golden and Radium who really concern me,” said Gudjonson. “Interior Health has told me that they will get service but (those communities) are not in the (new) contract at all, so I don’t know how they would get service, and on 6.15 hours, I can’t even drive to Edgewater and back because travel is included in those hours.

“That is unrealistic and, also, my concern is there’s nothing mentioned in the contract from Golden to Invermere clients, which is like Parson, Edgewater, Spillimacheen,” she continued.

She recently voiced her concerns to NDP MLA for Columbia River-Revelstoke Norm Macdonald and was “disappointed” with the results of their meeting.

But Macdonald insists on holding Interior Health accountable if Gudjonson’s speculation is accurate.

“There’s a transition that’s going on now that has yet to be fully defined,” explained Macdonald, noting the process will be ongoing. “We’ve been working on this a lot with Interior Health. They have given us assurance, but our experience has been in the past that sometimes we’re sure of things and it doesn’t turn out as rosily as they assert it’s going to. This is something that’s still being worked on but we absolutely, as an office and the representative for the area, will not tolerate services that are going to be taken away from people that really need these supports.”

Interior Health spokesperson Karl Hardt was neither able to confirm Gudjonson’s numbers were accurate, nor provide us with a comparison of this year’s contract hours and the projected numbers for the party who is awarded the responsibility of taking the reins.

“The RFP has closed,” said Hardt, when asked if there were bids for the new requirements of the contract with Interior Health. “We did have bids. It’s a competitive process so we can’t speak to the details, but our folks are expecting that we will have something in approximately two weeks. We’re just reviewing the bids at this point.”