Fort St. John

Save Our Northern Seniors (SONS)
Margaret Little

Save Our Northern Seniors (SONS) is centred in Fort St. John and dedicated to making a difference for seniors living in northern BC. Fort St. John is located on the Peace River in north eastern BC.  SONS shares information and raises issues of concern with all groups in the areas, serving about 300,000 people, many of whom are Aboriginal.

SONS developed a Community Health Guide which lists most of the services in the South and North Peace Area as well as Fort Nelson.


Oral submission to the Joint Standing Committee on Finance – 2020

M. Little: My name is Margaret Little. I’ve been a member of Save Our Northern Seniors for 20 years, and for 20 years, we have made presentations to every politician and group that we possibly can. We have worked closely with our community partners, and during the COVID crisis, we have worked even more.

I realize that I sent in a lengthy document, but I wanted to tell you a bit about our dynamic community. I hope that you will take time to look at the recommendations that the select standing committee made last year. Those ones are still really, really important to our community.

I’d like to thank those people who have worked in our community making life better for seniors. It has been a tremendous effort. However, after COVID-19, we can’t be put back on the shelf and say: “Okay, we’ll just do a little bit.” We have to make giant steps in all directions for seniors.

Our priorities for Fort St. John and the area are a third house at Peace Villa designated as a dementia village as well as assisted-living units. We need more staffing at all levels, with more personal time for seniors, either in a facility or at home.

Improved support services, such as physiotherapy and recreation time with space for activities, are an extremely important feature. We’d like to have locally grown food. We need to have enhanced transportation systems and funding for support services and wages.

Finally, we would like to have more educational opportunities to encourage recruitment and retention. The people who work on the front lines sometimes never get the credit that they should get.

In your document, I have provided the page numbers for you. So it’s easy for you to find where my issues are.

I want to talk about the spaces in our community, our facilities. We have 346 spaces for people. There are 199 people waiting on the list.

There are 353 people getting support in the community. Now, I know that one would say: “Well, they aren’t all just in the community. They’re probably on the list somewhere too.” So even if you take that in half, there are 453 people waiting for some sort of support or placement.

The assisted living, as of May 2020, was 28 people.

We need more home support. If the government is really and truly believing that we should keep people in their own homes, then we need to have the support put in place.

Our Fort St. John Hospital for years has had waiting times. They don’t have enough staff, and the emergency always has a waiting list. Pre COVID-19 there were anywhere between 15 and 20 people in the hospital waiting for placement at Peace Villa. Our community needs alternatives for people who are using the emergency — more doctors, more health practitioners, more walk-in clinics.

Staffing is needed at all levels. There’s a real need for a staffing ratio in our care homes, and this is really important. These numbers didn’t come out of thin air. They came out of the seniors advocate’s report. Right now a resident gets 3.36 or, depending on the number you’re using, 3.47 hours of direct care.

Now, I want to ask you. If there’s nobody to give you a bath, nobody to help you go to the bathroom, how would you feel? There have been cases across the province where seniors are not getting that support. It’s time for the government to put their money where their mouth is. We need to have more support and more staffing.

Why do we have difficulty retaining and recruiting staff? Part of it is the public image. I’ve been watching on Facebook and every other social media, just like other people, and every time you turn around, there’s somebody getting slammed because they aren’t doing a good enough job. We need to support the people who are going into the health professional fields.

There are things that we can do to help improve services. There needs to be more recreation. We have groups that go into the care homes, into the North Peace housing and anywhere that they are invited, where they provide music. It’s a wonderful opportunity for our residents. The adult day program needs to be enhanced. Right now there is no daycare program because of COVID. I understand that.

There needs to be a chance for caregivers to have opportunities to have respite, counselling times, financial assistance and just somebody to listen to.

B. D’Eith (Chair): Margaret, if I may, you’re out of time. If you could please wrap up, I would appreciate that. Thank you.

M. Little: Okay. I’m just going to mention quickly…. The handyDART service only runs once during the day, not on the weekend.

My priorities are travel to other centres — we need help for rural people going to other centres, a PharmaCare strategy, a third house at Peace Villa, more staffing; more educational opportunities to encourage recruitment and retention.

B. D’Eith (Chair): Thank you so much, Margaret.


SEPTEMBER 26, 2019

Northern Health
Northern Health says it is temporarily suspending new admissions at Peace Villa due to staffing challenges.
The health authority announced the news Thursday morning, saying the move is necessary to “ensure continued safe, quality care” for current residents.

“In spite of aggressive and continuing recruitment efforts and available incentives, a number of positions remain vacant at Peace Villa. Demand for health care aides, Licensed Practical Nurses and Registered Nurses is high throughout the Northeast,” Northern Health said.

Northern Health says it’s working on a plan to deal with the staff shortage in consultation with the ministry of health, and is reviewing inter-provincial mobility and training incentives.

“The team will also work with local management to address any immediate care concerns related to staffing, and will work closely with residents and their family members to address any issues or concerns,” Northern Health said.


Jean Leahy (above) sadly passed away at the end of August, 2019. Jean leaves a huge void in the community where she was a tireless advocate for health issues.



Jean Leahy awarded the Ida Peever Award from Better At Home
Jean Leahy awarded the Ida Peever Award from Better At Home

Jean has been an active member of the community of Fort St. John and is the president of SONS since its inception.
Laura Beamish – Better At Home:
“For the second year, we are presenting the Ida award that is named after Ida Peever. This award goes to a person who is an organizer, a go-getter and who has made change for good in her community and takes care of those around her!
Jean Leahy has been active in the community for years. She has represented those who needed representing and has always been a voice for those who needed someone to speak for them. Currently she does both these things as the president of SONS.
There is a saying “I am fairly certain that given a cape and a nice tiara, I could save the world,” and I think that definitely applies to this year’s IDA AWARD honouree Jean Leahy”