Blog | January 27, 2012

By Karen Kleiss, edmontonjournal.comEDMONTON - The Conservative government’s new plan for seniors housing will all but privatize health care for aging Albertans, seniors advocates and opposition parties say.One day after the province announced an “aging in place” strategy, critics including Carol Wodak of Continuing Care Watch said the plan is “utterly devoid of crucial details, like who will pay (for services) and who will staff the facilities.“This is nothing but an advertising come-on released just in time for the election,” Wodak said. “There is absolutely nothing new here.“We don’t know what kind of beds these are going to be. We don’t know about the care that’s going to be provided. There’s not a word about the level of services to be provided, or the competency of the staff…or the ratio of staff to patients.”On Wednesday, Health Minister Fred Horne announced a major change in the government’s approach to housing and caring for seniors who need assistance.In coming years, he said, older Albertans who can no longer live independently will find permanent homes in single facilities, instead of bouncing from home to home as their needs increase.The new facilities will be called “continuing care centres,” under a plan touted by Premier Alison Redford during the Conservative leadership campaign last summer. Two demonstration facilities will be built to test the idea before it is implemented provincewide.Wodak, who has been monitoring senior’s care in Alberta for nearly two decades, said the province first talked about “aging in place” in 1988. Today, it is building a system that requires Albertans to pay for health care services they need when they get older — unless they can’t.“It’s a very Victorian concept,” Wodak said. “You have to be poor and deserving to get charity, and I’m not sure who decides if you’re deserving.”During the PC leadership race, Redford promised to build 1,000 new continuing care beds in part by lifting the $40-a-day cap on the amount private operators can charge, which she said would spur construction. Horne on Wednesday reversed that promise, saying the Tories have no plans to eliminate the cap.Bill Moore-Kilgannon of Public Interest Alberta said Horne’s plan offers “no response to the real problem” that exists in seniors care/“The model that they’re talking about lays the foundation for a lot of public dollars going to private corporations to provide the care,” he said.The biggest danger is that eliminating the designations between the various levels of care will trigger a consolidation of laws and repeal the Nursing Homes Act — the only law left to protect health-care standards for seniors, he said.“Getting rid of the designations has serious implications for standards and levels of care.”NDP Leader Brian Mason called Horne’s announcement “reheated leftovers.”“They’re still pursuing a public-private model, and they’re allowing a crisis to build,” Mason said. “There is a very significant shortage of long-term care beds, and what they should be doing is focusing on building those beds.”The most recent reports from Alberta Health Services show there are currently 1,683 people waiting for continuing care in acute or sub-acute beds, Mason said, and 675 of those people are currently occupying hospital beds.“It’s not going to meet the demand,” he said. “It’s not even going to come close.”

By Karen Kleiss, edmontonjournal.comkkleiss@edmontonjournal.comtwitter.com/ablegreporter

This article was published by the Edmonton Journal on January 26, 2012. Read the full article on the Edmonton Journal website.