EDMONTON—Three advocates for seniors met for an hour on April 30th with Premier Stelmach and Mary Anne Jablonski, Minister of Seniors and Community Supports, to discuss aspects of the continuing care system for Alberta seniors.
Dr.Brian Staples, Chair of the Seniors Action and Liaison Team (SALT) and head of the Circle of Chairs of Alberta seniors’ organizations, made a presentation in support of establishing an Independent Seniors Advocate as an officer of the legislature. He contends that one of the benefits of the Office of the Independent Seniors Advocate is that it could be used to assess and improve the wide array of services provided to Alberta seniors that involves nineteen provincial government departments, nine regional health authorities, along with federal agencies, numerous municipalities and NGO's.
Carol Wodak, a member of SALT and co-founder of Citizen Watch, spoke about the need for better communication, accountability and transparency in Government policy and service delivery. She emphasized that while the government consults frequently with facility operators and the continuing care industry, it lacks the means to consult with, or to assess how the system works for those in need of care and their families. Copies of the SALT Brief on Continuing Care and a Commentary on the Auditor General’s Report on Seniors, which were the basis of the presentation, are available at: http://www.continuingcarewatch.com
Noel Somerville, Chair of the Seniors Task Force of Public Interest Alberta, outlined the five steps of the Alberta Seniors Deserve Better campaign aimed at addressing the principal shortcomings of Alberta’s continuing care system. He spoke about the need for improved home care services, more appropriate care in supportive/assisted living settings, and independent resident and family Advisory Councils, similar to the education system’s school councils. His presentation is available on the PIA website.
Ms. Jablonski agreed to further discussions regarding these concerns and issues. The three advocates are hopeful those meetings will result in a better understanding by Government of the problems with the current system and programs, more effective and responsive planning and programs, and a basis for a sustainable and successful continuing care system.
With growing public concerns about access to and quality of continuing care services and about accountability, there is a real need for better understanding of these concerns by public decision-makers. While occasional meetings with representatives of consumer advocate groups are a small step forward, it is worrying that the Government continues to consult privately with selected experts and industry operators about policy changes to continuing care.
This highlights the need for all of us who are concerned about the state of Alberta’s continuing care system to keep pressure on our MLAs and government to address the many short comings of this care system.
- 30 -