Monday, March 9, 2009

Banff Town Meeting

Today was the Banff Town Meeting where the Banff Mineral Springs Hospital presented their case on why they have "temporarily" suspended obstetrics services. Many in the community do not believe that this closure will be temporary, so those of us in support of it reopening have been out in full force to put pressure on the hospital to make good on their promise to reopen should their staffing shortages be resolved. Saturday there was a rally at the hospital as you can see here.

All of the rallies have been friendly, and families turned out in droves. Kids were welcome today, although many had left by the time the meeting reached one hour. Here is my daughter before she got to restless for me to stay. We were there about 1 1/2 hours. She did really well listening to a bunch of adults droning on and on, as did all the kids who were there.

After the hospital had their say, the Councillors asked questions, many of which were from the community. I really have no way of gauging how it went, since I left before it was over. However, the turn out from the community was awesome!

I am proud of my community. When I got home from the meeting, I drafted the following letter to The Banff Crag and Canyon. I am not sure I submitted it in time for tomorrow's edition, but will post it here...

To The Editor:

I just returned from the Banff Town Meeting where Banff Mineral Springs Hospital Administration presented their side of the story as to why they have "temporarily" closed Obstetrics. They also answered many questions from our community, that were asked by Councillor Stavros Karlos, but I had to head home with my 2 ½ year old daughter before the meeting came to an end. I will not recount all of the concerns surrounding the unfortunate closing, as I am sure to forget something, and I don't really feel I know all the facts even though I have been closely following the story since it broke. All the important points have been raised and covered in the pages of our local newspapers, both in articles and letters to the editor, as well as at recent rallies. I would rather write about this issue on a personal level.

I am currently pregnant with my second child, who is due in June of 2009. My family has only been living in Banff since May of 2007 but have made many friends here and are pleased to call it home. I have attended all the support events related to the closing, aside from the first one, when I watched my friend Pam Currie's shop, so she could lead it. I have been a part of these friendly events not only for the concerns of my family. I have been present at these rallies because it is the least I can do for my friends who have recently given birth, who are set to give birth in coming weeks, and for the (hopefully) future births of children in Banff. It is the only way I can effectively lend my voice for people in all our surrounding communities, as the closing of obstetrics here will affect those communities as well.

What I would most like to say is how proud I am to be part of this community! As a professional photographer who has worked on several social/humanitarian related documentaries/photo essays, I have seen people come together all over the world in an effort to make change. All of the experiences I have covered have involved peaceful demonstration in the form of things like rallies or simply by people coming together to bring change by doing whatever they could as a group. I have watched 400 people, most of them teens, repair 60 homes of impoverished, disabled, and elderly in rural Maine. I have witnessed hundreds of students in Terrier Rouge, Haiti, being given the opportunity for a better life because of the compassion of hundreds of people in the North Eastern US. I have watched workers peacefully marching in Spain for better working conditions. And my family and I attended a rally close to home in Calgary last May, arranged by local Banff resident, Ulrike Kimbley-Nicolai, to ask the government to cover midwifery services for women who want to choose this option for the birth of their children. In all of these cases positive changes were made. I am hoping a positive outcome will result from the coming together of our residents over the need for the continuation of birthing in Banff.

I have always believed in the power of people peacefully joining together for positive change. And now that we are under the care of Canmore midwife, Mireille Caron, for the birth of our second child, which will be covered by the government as of April 1st, 2009, I am able to teach my daughter the value of making our voices heard. This weekend she witnessed this at the sit-in and again today at the town meeting. I am so happy I can show her how our friends and neighbours have come together with us on this issue. And I hope I can show her a positive outcome of our collective efforts by the reopening of obstetrics services at BMSH. I hope that this will not have to be the sad example I need to show her of how sometimes, even when you do your best, a change cannot be made. Please, for my family, and for all of the families who live, work, play, and raise their children in Banff and our surrounding communities, think about our future and find a way to allow babies to be born in Banff.

Thank you again to everyone who has been active on this issue. It warms my heart and adds to my long list of good reasons for living to this amazing place. Because of you efforts there is hope that this closing can be reversed. As Dr. David Swann, leader of the Alberta liberals, pointed out in his speech at the rally on Saturday, there have been several rural obstetrics wards that have recently closed, but ours is the only community that has protested. We should be proud that we are not willing to let this issue end without a fight. We can be a positive example to the communities who will certainly be faced with this issue in the future.

Tiffany Teske

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