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A 91-year-old Second World War veteran has prevailed in his fight for access to Camp Hill Veterans’ Memorial Hospital.
“It’s a great Christmas present, very much so,” said Gordon Smith from his Hubbards home on Tuesday. “It’s where I so wanted to be and transportation will be much easier to see my wife who’s also in nursing care in Halifax.”
Smith said he received the good news in a telephone call from Veterans Affairs Monday morning, informing him he’s been allocated a room whenever he likes.
Because of privacy rules, Veterans Affairs spokesman Alex Wellstead couldn’t confirm the news.
“That would have to come from the family and if they’re saying so, that’s great news,” said Wellstead.
Back in August, Veterans Affairs denied his application to the long-term care facility because he completed his service in Britain. At the time, Camp Hill had 29 empty beds designated for Second World War veterans.
His story went public earlier this month and it was met with widespread outrage. The backlash prompted Veterans Affairs to open up 25 of the vacant beds for Allied veterans, such as Smith, and modern-day veterans. The other four will continue to be reserved for Second World War and Korean War veterans who served with the Canadian Forces.
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Gordon said he’s grateful for the outpouring of public support and to his daughter, Margo Smith, and granddaughter, Sabrina Smith, who lobbied Veterans Affairs for months to reverse its decision.
“They are the ones that should be thanked for accelerating space available for Camp Hill, for me and others.”
The trio are planning to visit the facility on Friday and Smith hopes to move in before Christmas.
His granddaughter, Sabrina Smith, said she’s thrilled for her granddad.
“He’s going to where he’s always wanted to go,” she said.
“I’m really surprised that it happened so fast and with the outpouring of support we’ve gotten. That was a real boost to all of us and it’s really heartening to know that so many Canadians care so deeply for our veterans. There was a point when we felt so powerless to make this happen so it’s very exciting.”
She said her grandfather is pleased to know that their fight also resulted in more veterans getting access to Camp Hill.
But she says her family’s experience with Veterans Affairs has demonstrated that the department is falling short in the most basic ways.
“If my grandfather didn’t have someone to advocate for him he wouldn’t have gotten into Camp Hill,” she said. “He was calling Ottawa and getting a different analyst each time and not getting the attention he deserves, not getting anything in writing. The system doesn’t work for the people it’s supposed to serve.”