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EDITORIAL: Confined for life

Jim and Barbara Munves enjoy an afternoon together in 2015. For the past month, the couple has only been able to see each other inside the Atlantic Baptist Home.
Jim and Barbara Munves enjoy an afternoon together in 2015. For the past month, the couple has only been able to see each other inside the Atlantic Baptist Home. - Mitch MacDonald

This bureaucratic ruling ensures the Munves will finish out their long, happy and productive lives together in a state of misery.

In the court of public opinion, most Islanders feel that Barbara and Jim Munves are the victims of a great injustice. The heart-wrenching story about the two seniors, forcibly split up at the most vulnerable time in their lives, has garnered wide-spread attention and public comment.

It’s easy to blame the system or bureaucracy for their plight. Government feels that safety is the key issue and that it’s best for all concerned that Barbara remains in a nursing home. Similar situations have occurred in the past and this course of action has proven the best – for government. Each case is different and the same narrow criteria shouldn’t be applied here.

Jim Munves argues there are other priorities in play which the couple have discussed, such as quality and dignity of life. They want to stay in their home with their treasured pet and retain their independence.

Being in familiar surroundings would help limit the symptoms of Barbara’s dementia issues. Jim thought he did all the things necessary or demanded by government to allow his wife to stay at home. But it seems no matter how much he did, it was never enough.

Life-altering decisions were made without their involvement or consent. Crucial information was withheld from the couple. Barbara is now confined to a nursing home in a virtual life sentence.

There are key issues in play here – such as the rights of senior citizens in general – to make their own decisions without government intervening. This bureaucratic ruling ensures the Munves will finish out their long, happy and productive lives together in a state of misery. If they are happy at home, and reasonable precautions are made to ensure their health and safety, then their rights as individuals should supersede the concerns of the state. A live-in, fulltime care worker should have been enough to convince the province to relent and allow Barbara to return home.

The optics are all wrong. We see an elderly couple told that the state knows best; the system is inflexible; a bureaucrat can make an assessment which seems irreversible; there is no room for compromise; and individuals’ rights are trampled on with impunity.

Is there another solution or a workable compromise? Of course. There must be.

This decision flies in the face of government policy to encourage seniors to remain in their homes for as long as possible. The recent multi-million-dollar deal struck between the province, the federal government and Blue Cross / Medavie is a good example. The program utilizes Island EMS paramedics to bridge the transition of seniors from hospital back to their homes until home care is set up. And why can’t provincial home care nurses be utilized to supplement the live-in worker hired by Mr. Munves? And why can’t paramedics’ expertise be used to assist this couple and help them remain in their home?

Government appears to be on the wrong side of this story. It can compromise and correct a wrong. Or at least try. The Munves deserve better.

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