HALIFAX — The son of a decorated 94-year-old veteran who has been fighting for months for a bed at the federally-funded Camp Hill Veterans Memorial hospital in Halifax said he feels emotional and relieved that his father is getting his wish.
Peter Blendheim, who spells his name differently from his father Petter Blindheim, said he met with Halifax MP Andy Fillmore on Friday and was informed that his father would be admitted as an allied veteran to one of the 13 beds available at the hospital.
"It's emotional for me and emotional for my family," said Blendheim in a phone interview. "Now my father can go there in peace and be happy."
Petter Blindheim, a 94-year-old veteran of the Norwegian Royal Navy, receives Norway's Commemorative Medal from Col. Sigurd Iversen of the Royal Norwegian Air Force, in Halifax on Thursday, June 16, 2016. (Photo: Andrew Vaughan/CP)
Petter Blindheim, a veteran of the Norwegian Royal Navy and merchant marine, could be admitted as early as next week, his son said.
Ottawa initially rejected entry to Camp Hill for Petter Blindheim last October. The family appealed that decision and in January, Veterans Affairs again refused his entry because it said Norwegian forces fighting from England didn't qualify as official allies.
The department later recanted that position, but last week rejected the former sailor — who has fallen repeatedly and broken his arm — on the basis that Ottawa can pay for any necessary care at provincial facilities.
Liberals announce new agreement
On Friday, Veterans Affairs Minister Kent Hehr announced that Ottawa had reached a new agreement with the Nova Scotia Health Authority to expand veterans' access to beds in the Camp Hill hospital.
Hehr said a review would be conducted to better address long-term care for veterans country-wide.
"The veterans' health care regulations are not currently compassionate or flexible enough to address the urgent needs of our veterans, so as we undertake a review to better address long-term care needs, this measure will provide the flexibility necessary to help veterans and their families," Hehr said in a statement.
Fillmore acknowledged Friday that his Liberal government's decision took time.
"Sometimes, getting things right takes longer than we'd like it to," said Fillmore in a statement.
"Sometimes, getting things right takes longer than we'd like it to."
— Liberal MP Andy Fillmore
"(This) decision provides a starting place to look at the process which has been so challenging over the last few weeks, and introduce much needed flexibility and compassion for other veterans in the future."
Blendheim said his family is relieved. He said when he told his father the news, he was more concerned about other veterans than himself.
"I said to him, 'You got your bed in Camp Hill,' and he turned to me and said, 'But not just for me. It won't look good. What about the other veterans?"' said Blendheim.
Blendheim said the decision will give his 73-year-old mother a much-needed break from caring for her husband, who needs help with everything from using the bathroom to washing.
"She's having a really hard time with her own health. She has arthritis in both her legs... She can hardly walk herself," said Blendheim, adding that his parents have been together for nearly 50 years.
"Just to watch them try to function here, she can hardly walk so she's pushing and almost falling into the wheelchair when she's trying to take him to the bathroom."