Media releases | March 03, 2009

EDMONTON—The many member organizations of Public Interest Alberta's seniors task force are calling on the Alberta government not to cut seniors out of access to a universal pharmacare plan and public continuing care.“Both of these government strategies will force the average senior who requires extensive medical care or expensive drugs to pay significantly more for their care,” said Noel Somerville, Chairperson of PIA's Seniors task force. “When did it become acceptable public policy to put the heaviest load on those who are the sickest and frailest?”The new Continuing Care strategy states that the government will not spend money on expanding our public long-term care system for our most frail and medically needy seniors. This despite the fact that there is a severe shortage of long-term care beds with over 1500 seniors currently on the urgent waiting list (with half of them in acute care hospitals) and projections that the percentage of seniors in Alberta’s population will double by 2020. Instead of making the needed investment, the government plans to deregulate the costs for long-term care, so that corporations are able to make more profits and are encouraged to build more facilities.“Alberta's continuing care system is already plagued with long waiting lists, understaffing and many other problems and these latest plans are only going to make the situation worse,” said Lynda Jonson, a long-time seniors advocate from Hinton. “Particularly in smaller cities and towns, seniors are going to be facing much higher costs, more poorly regulated assisted living facilities with nothing to guarantee that they will get better quality care or be able to provide more seniors the support they need.”“This government did not consult with seniors before it decided to transfer the costs of medicine onto the seniors who have chronic conditions and require expensive drugs,’ said John Bachynsky, from the Seniors Community Health Council of Edmonton and professor emeritus in the Faculty of Pharmacy. “There are many ways the government can save money with a smart drug policy including focussing on high risk, high cost patients to keep them out of hospital.” “Seniors who have managed to work and save all of their lives are being penalized by this new policy,” said Baldwin Reichwein a retired member with the Alberta College of Social Workers. “We met with the Minister yesterday and we are deeply concerned that insurance companies will be charging increased premiums to seniors and those seniors will be required to divulge their financial status in order to get insurance.”“This government needs to understand that many seniors are angry about the new pharmacare and continuing care strategies and are getting organized to fight it, just like we did with Bill 11 and the Third Way,” said David Eggen, Executive Director of Friends of Medicare. “Instead of this type of attack on seniors, Albertans want a universal pharmacare plan and want the government to build public continuing care that is there to meet the needs of our growing seniors population.”Albertans are encouraged to go to the website (http://www.pialberta.org/program_areas/Seniors) to learn more about these new policies and to send a message to the Ministers of Health and Seniors and their MLAs.-30-

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