For almost seven years now, Wolf Solkin has called a small, cluttered room at Ste. Anne’s Hospital home. But the 96-year-old Second World War veteran says the care he’s receiving still isn’t adequate, eight months after becoming the main plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit over the issue.
“One of the few things we have left is our dignity and our pride as human beings, let alone as veterans. That dignity is being chipped away at,” he said.
It took a Global News cameraman and a journalist two hours to access Solkin’s room at the veterans’ hospital in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue after the veteran invited them for an interview. The cameraman was stopped by security guards at the hospital’s reception desk. Media relations at the CIUSSS de l’Ouest told Global News that protocol requires journalists be accompanied for interviews, and they could not find someone on short notice. Eventually, hospital staff became available and accompanied the Global News crew to the veteran’s room.
Solkin believes it was an effort to stifle him.
“I feel humiliated, I feel embarrassed, I feel ashamed for the hospital staff,” he said while lying in bed. “Here we are, veterans who fought to preserve our freedom of speech, our freedom of expression, and here we are 75 years later, we are back fighting the same war against our own people.”
The lawsuit in which Solkin is involved was launched in February against the federal and provincial governments as well as the CIUSSS regional health agency that runs the hospital. The suit claims the province failed to maintain an adequate level of care at the hospital when the federal government handed over control of it to the province in the spring of 2016.
Solkin says other veterans are scared to speak out for fear of retribution, but he is not. He complains the level of care still isn’t what it should be.
“I am helpless unless someone changes my soiled diaper,” he said. “I have had to wait last week twice for as long as 45 minutes or longer lying in my own feces, waiting to be changed.”
There are only around 120 veterans left alive at the hospital, compared to almost 400 when control was transferred in 2016. Solkin says it’s crucial those still around are treated with dignity.
“We would like to die in our own proper time. We would like to die with the proper degree of care,” he said.
The health agency told Global News in a statement that it could not comment on the lawsuit, but proper care is being administered.
“A judicial process is currently underway. As such, we will not comment,” the statement read. “That being said, we reiterate that providing our veterans and residents with the care and services to which they are entitled is always at the forefront of our priorities.”
As for the lawsuit, it’s on an accelerated schedule because of the age of those involved.
“They are really old and they cannot protect themselves by themselves and they need that help,” said Michael Savonitto, one of the lawyers on the case.
Various procedural issues will see the case in and out of the courts this fall. And with the accelerated schedule, the trial is expected to begin in November of next year.