News | June 10, 2015

By Karen Kleiss, Edmonton JournalEDMONTON—Alberta’s health minister said Wednesday the NDP government plans to make good on an election promise to boost home care funding by $30 million this year, and by $60 million in each of the next four years.“We plan on making the necessary changes to ensure that increased access to home care is available, no matter where you live,” Sarah Hoffman said after a caucus meeting at Government House in Edmonton.Hoffman also hinted the government will move to fulfil an election pledge to “end the PCs’ costly experiments in privatization.”“Those aren’t the values that drive us,” she said. “We’re really committed to the Canada Health Act.”Alberta Health Services (AHS) spokesman Kerry Williamson said in 2013-14, taxpayers spent $505 million on home care. The cost has increased sharply since 2009-10, when Alberta spent $381.5 million on home care, Williamson said.Currently, Alberta provides home care services to nearly 115,000 Albertans.Wildrose critic Tany Yao said the NDP and Wildrose views align on the importance of home care, and he supports the move to increase funding.“If it’s not available, then these are people who would be heading into the emergency rooms and long-term care facilities,” he said. “We need to alleviate that pressure by investing in seniors care.”Noel Somerville, chair of the seniors task force at Public Interest Alberta, a left-leaning advocacy group that has long opposed privatization and cuts to Alberta’s home care services, said additional funding is “a very good first step, but we’ll have to monitor and see whether it produces significant improvement, or not.”The demand for home care still far outstrips supply, he said.“AHS reduced the amount of time per (home care) visit by 50 minutes, and when the private corporations came in, they cut even more radically. They had a hard time hiring staff because they weren’t paying enough,” Somerville said.“(The Tories) actually dismantled some of the best home care systems we had in the province, and … they set it up in the most ridiculous way, giving these corporations a monopoly in each of the areas. There was no competition.”The cuts became so severe, Somerville said, that some home care workers were forced to take public transportation to see clients.“The primary and fiduciary of a corporation is to ensure shareholder return, it’s not to ensure proper care for the people that are their clients,” he said. “Going back to public delivery would be a huge step forward.”Former Public Interest Alberta executive director Bill Moore-Kilgannon recently took a job as Hoffman’s chief of staff.A spokesperson for the Alberta Continuing Care Association could not be reached for comment.kkleiss@edmontonjournal.comtwitter.com/ablegreporter© Copyright (c) The Edmonton JournalRead the story on the Edmonton Journal's website

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