In Debate: Veterans Affairs

Ms. Irene Mathyssen (London—Fanshawe, NDP): Mr. Chair, I thank the member for her remarks and her insight into the realities faced by veterans.

My question pertains to my riding. While she did not touch on it, I am hoping that she can shed some light. The Parkwood Hospital in my riding is a veterans hospital and has been a veterans hospital since the end of the first world war. It is currently closing 72 beds. The reality is that veterans from World War I, World War II and the Korean War are diminishing in numbers and so the beds are being closed.

My concern is, and I have written to the minister about this, that these beds should be available for peacekeepers, and there have been many missions since the Korean War, and for the veterans coming back from Afghanistan.

The response, and I understand, is that these modern-day veterans can seek private care in other kinds of facilities. The problem, however, is that other facilities do not have the expertise or the kind of atmosphere care that ex-service people would benefit from. Very often in these seniors' homes they do not even have a Remembrance Day ceremony.

We are talking about creating centres of excellence, and not allowing these veterans' hospitals to go by the wayside. I wonder if the member could comment on that.

Ms. Kirsty Duncan: (Etobicoke North, Lib) Mr. Chair, the hon. member raises an important issue, which is the issue of long-term care.

When members of the Canadian Forces go off to war and into harm's way, we have an obligation to look after them when they return and ensure they have the care and treatment they need. They should not be fighting another battle when they come home when they absolutely need that specialized care.

I will address the issues of operational stress injuries, anxiety, depression and PTSD. We need people who are experienced in those fields. What do we need to do immediately in order to take action on PTSD? Is it investments in awareness, outreach and suicide prevention? Is it hiring more mental health professionals? Is it improving care and treatment?

Once veterans have a diagnosis, we need to make it easier for them to get the support they need.