News | June 05, 2014

First Available Bed Policy is Symptom of Failed Private Market Model

EDMONTON The Health Quality Council of Alberta report “Continuing Care Wait List: First Available Appropriate Living Option” that was released today demonstrates that there continues to be a serious shortage of spaces for seniors requiring long-term care. The result is that many seniors are waiting too long in acute care hospitals and in their homes. However, the report fails to explore underlying systemic issues with the private seniors care model.

“Many seniors and their families are the ones who are suffering from the failures of this private market approach to seniors care,” says Noel Somerville, Chairperson of Public Interest Alberta Seniors Task Force.  “The government needs to invest in building enough capacity in a public seniors care system rather than giving millions of dollars to corporations to build lower care assisted-living facilities.”

The report recommends that families should be given more choice rather than having to take the first available bed within a 100 km radius. Despite their promise to build 5000 long-term care beds over five years, the current AHS capital plan shows that the government intends to reduce the number of long-term care beds by 1700 while putting millions of public dollars into private assisted living facilities, most of which are owned by for-profit, private corporations.

“When will the Minister of Health admit that their private market model for seniors care is broken and needs to be over hauled?” asks Bill Moore-Kilgannon, Executive Director of Public Interest Alberta. “We hear story after story of seniors and their families who are disempowered and forced to advocate and fight for quality care.  Instead the government should be investing in a public system that can provide for the health and well-being of our seniors.”

While the report says the AHS policy is that families can be charged $100/ day if they refuse a first available bed, many people have been told that they would have to pay the full hospital costs if they do not accept the placement.

“When we did not want my father to go into a private long-term care facility, we were told directly that we would have to pay $1200 - $1500 per day for him to stay at the hospital and that he would not stay at the top of the waiting list for another bed,” said Larry Booi, Chairperson of Public Interest Alberta.  “It had nothing to do with choice – it was coercive bullying. As it turned out, the private long-term care facility could not deal with some of his basic health care needs, resulting in him being transferred back to the hospital a number of times before they would no longer take him back.”

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