HALIFAX – The son of a decorated 94-year-old war veteran says he’s shocked after receiving word that Petter Blindheim has been rejected once again in his bid to stay in one of 13 beds available at the federally funded Camp Hill Veteran’s Memorial hospital in Halifax.
Peter Blendheim, whose first and last names are spelled differently from his father’s, said Monday’s decision leaves him wondering how to provide safe care for the frail veteran of the Norwegian Royal Navy, who is set to receive Norway’s Commemorative Medal in a ceremony on Thursday.
“The sad end to this might be that he does break his hip. … It’s ridiculous,” he said.
The family has conducted a lengthy public battle to gain entry to the hospital for the former merchant mariner, who has recently sustained a series of falls and has a broken arm.
Family members say Blindheim was initially rejected because Ottawa said it didn’t admit people who served in “resistance” forces, but Veterans Affairs officials later retreated from that position and told the son that the Norwegian veterans qualified as full allied veterans.
The son says he was then informed Blindheim had to show he required specialized care that couldn’t be provided by a provincially operated nursing home. Blendheim says he was told Monday his father failed to meet that standard.
Instead, the family is being told to apply to enter a provincial long-term care facility, with Ottawa reimbursing the province for the daily costs.
A spokesman for the Nova Scotia Health Authority said the current median wait for a nursing home bed in the Halifax area is 285 days.
A spokesman for the provincial Health Department said Nova Scotia wants Ottawa to reconsider.
“Mr. Blindheim wants to be in Camp Hill with other veterans. We understand there are about a dozen vacancies at Camp Hill and encourage Veterans Affairs Canada to take another look at Mr. Blindheim’s situation,” said the emailed statement from spokesman Tony Kiritsis.
Blendheim worries now that his father may fall or hurt himself at night as he’s waiting for approval for a bed and begins an appeal process to enter Camp Hill that could take months.
He also says the family believes the allied veterans deserve the same quality of care as the disabled Canadian veterans who can gain admission to Camp Hill, especially as their overall numbers dwindle rapidly.
The Nova Scotia Health Authority says the beds at the highly regarded Camp Hill hospital are subsidized to a level of about $400 per day, while the average provincial bed costs $250 daily.
“Let’s look after the last allied veterans. We’ve made awful restrictions for them to get in. We’ve made it almost impossible … but let’s ease it up because now there’s room. Now we don’t have hundreds of Canadian veterans going there,” said Blendheim.
“The regulation has not adapted to our current situation.”
Meanwhile, the NDP went after the Liberal government during question period in the House of Commons on Tuesday, asking why Blindheim was being refused entry to the hospital based on a technicality.
Thomas Mulcair accused Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of breaking his government’s election promises to treat veterans more fairly, citing the Halifax case.
Trudeau said the Liberals will respect a “solemn obligation” to help veterans when they face difficulties.
“That is what we are working on very hard. Our minister of Veteran Affairs is collaborating with veterans groups to make sure we deliver the services they deserve,” he said.
Veteran Affairs minister Kent Hehr said in a telephone interview that he can’t comment on the Blindheim case.
Asked if he could provide a rationale on why allied veterans had to overcome the added requirements of showing a need for care not available in provincial facilities, he said the policy has worked well in the past.
“This policy has existed for decades and in the vast majority of cases has worked very well for veterans and their families who are getting access to more care in more cases across Canada,” he said.
“We can’t always accommodate a veteran’s specific request but we do pay for any level of care they need in a provincially run and mandated facility.”
Hehr also said in a statement that as a cabinet minister, he has to deliver programs within the legal authorities granted by Parliament.
“In the case of Long Term Care, I have no ministerial authority to work outside of those parameters,” says the statement.
Petter Blindheim was commended by the Royal Norwegian Navy for his courage when a torpedo sank a vessel he was serving on in November 1942.
After torpedoes struck the Montbretia, Blindheim ran to the deck and removed a primer from the depth charges he oversaw to help ensure they wouldn’t go off and kill sailors in the water as the ship sank.
After the war, he emigrated to Canada.