MY PERSPECTIVE BY Hattie Dyck
This is the time of year when those of us who are seniors have the privilege of paying to join the Nova Scotia Seniorsâ€™ Pharmacare program for next year.
I have no objection to paying the $424, which entitles me to cheaper drugs all year, but my experience with trying to make the payment by Visa left a lot to be desired.
I like paying bills as soon as possible, so on Thursday, March 13 at about 4 p.m. after I received my bill in the mail, I called the office in Halifax as per the instructions in the information bulletin sent with my bill. I was told that my call was important, but as there was a large volume of calls coming in, I should call back. No problem, I thought. So at 4:21 p.m. I did just that. The same message came on and I hung up for the second time. The third time I called it was4:40 p.m.. I was told the waiting time would be more than15 minutes, but I decided to try it anyway. After holding the phone to my ear until six minutes after 5 p.m. I heard some beeps and I was cut off. By that time I was getting rather annoyed but determined things might get better on Friday morning. They didnâ€™t. I tried three times on Friday and always got the answering machine telling me to either call back or wait 15 minutes. By this time I was far beyond being slightly annoyed, so I emailed my complaint to the pharmacare program and copied it to Colchester North MLA Karen Casey.
On Monday morning I had an answer to my email, which was not signed, but I was told to email my telephone number to pharmacare and they would telephone me. The ignorance of sending me a curt, unsigned email didnâ€™t set too well, so I telephoned Mrs. Caseyâ€™s office again. By noon someone from the pharmacare office called me and I paid my bill.
This type of dealing with seniors is definitely unacceptable. If they cannot hire enough people to take the phone calls then donâ€™t advertise that we can have this type of assistance. Similarly, if there are employees there not doing their job, fire them. They shouldnâ€™t be paid for sloppy work or for not working at all. Not all seniors are computer literate and government shouldnâ€™t expect them to be.
It seems that seniors, whether it be war veterans or the rest of us, are expected to navigate a system designed to confuse them and make it difficult for them to do the business they need to complete. Seniors quite often need help filling out forms or just paying bills. And, we donâ€™t need to apologize for that or be told to get with the times. Weâ€™ve paid enough taxes in our lives that surely we can have a real person to answer the telephone if we need help with a government program. I honestly believe that sometimes government forms are either deliberately made to confuse us or theyâ€™re made by people who want to impress the world with their own importance.
Cutbacks seem to be the order of the day with all governments. Yet, billions are spent on foreign wars and given to countries overseas. I just read that the Canadian government is prepared to lend, and probably will never get back, $220 million to Ukraine because someone there decides they want to have a war. Everyone, everywhere who needs money is more important than Canadians who are being left to struggle alone. Food banks are stressed trying to help the poor and there are homeless on our Truro streets in sub-zero weather. Our infrastructure is crumbling around us, but we overlook that and send millions, if not billions, overseas. Iâ€™m not against helping those in need but charity begins at home. And, thereâ€™s a lot of need here in Canada.
The government couldnâ€™t get away with poor service, or no service, at their offices if people would speak up and complain. I expect if I hadnâ€™t been confident that I would get assistance from Caseyâ€™s office I would have given up and sent a cheque to pharmacare. I expect that is what they hope callers will do after dealing with that frustrating automated system. I plan to write the minister of health and send a copy to the Premier just to let them know they do not have, or at least didnâ€™t have when I called, an employee willing or able to answer the telephone and take my Visa number. Yet if they didnâ€™t get my money they would quickly cut me off of what I consider an excellent drug plan.
Thank you Karen Casey for being there for one of your constituents.
It must have been a difficult winter on the Department of Transportation budget, yet I think the maintenance departments and the snow plow operators deserve a lot of thanks for getting our highways and streets plowed as quickly and as well as they did.
Hattie Dyck is a local author and volunteer, who is dedicated to preserving local history.