Blog | July 10, 2013

By KEITH GEREIN, Edmonton Journal JULY 9, 2013EDMONTON - Health Minister Fred Horne says he is facing a time crunch in his effort to re-examine changes to the home-care system, but has no plans to undo a decision that will see the service primarily provided by a handful of private companies.Horne last week ordered new Alberta Health Services administrator Janet Davidson to reassess the health authority’s work to dramatically scale back the number of home-care agencies it uses in the Edmonton and Calgary areas. He said he was becoming “increasingly frustrated” with the volume of concerns about how the change was being implemented.Horne clarified his position Tuesday, saying Davidson’s review was never meant to raise hopes that the province will completely reverse the AHS decision. Instead, the review is designed only to determine if there are specific groups of home-care patients with extraordinary circumstances who might not be well served by a change in provider. As an example, he mentioned three self-administered co-ops in Edmonton that were already given back the ability to run their own home care“We want to make sure we are not leaving out anyone who needs some particular consideration,” he said in an interview. “The idea is to look for the exceptional cases, not to question the overall approach.”Horne said he is generally in favour of the consolidation since it will help standardize the level of home care around the province and save AHS about $18 million.Davidson’s review is believed to be complete, but Horne said has not had a chance to read her recommendations. He acknowledged there is some urgency to deal with any problem areas since many of the new home care contracts are on the verge of coming into effect if they haven’t been implemented already.Asked if the province could change or cancel a contract that has already come into force, Horne said he didn’t know.The minister’s comments are expected to disappoint a collection of health and seniors advocates who launched a campaign Tuesday to pressure the government to end the growing privatization of home care.They said the consolidation announced by AHS is pushing out many not-for-profit and community-run agencies in favour of a smaller group of large, for-profit corporations that pay staff less.“The loss of these valuable home-care providers is a serious blow for seniors who are trying to maintain their independence and remain in their own homes as long as possible,” said Noel Somerville, chairman of the seniors task force for the advocacy group Public Interest Alberta. “We urge minister Horne to intervene and bring an end to this foolish experiment. The bottom line is that it has to be safe and reliable care, not corporate profit.”Edmonton writer Carol Anne Kunicki said her 86-year-old mother, Stefania, is one of those victimized by the change. She said her mother is distraught after learning a valued health care aide could no longer serve her due to a change in providers for southeast Edmonton.“She had zero input, zero notification, zero choice,” Kunicki said.The collection of advocacy groups, which includes AUPE, the United Nurses of Alberta, and Friends of Medicare, plans to hold a rally on Grandparents Day on Sept. 8 at the legislature.Horne said he recognizes there has been considerable worry about the changes, but that all providers will be expected to deliver high quality care.“This has nothing to do with public versus private providers. It’s about providing a level of home care that meets people’s needs.”Home care agencies typically provide help with daily activities such as bathing, eating, dressing and taking medication. The consolidation will see the current group of 72 agencies reduced to 13, though AHS has not released the full list of successful bidders. The health authority would also not provide information on how many contracts have already come into effect.kgerein@edmontonjournal.comRead the article at The Edmonton Journal