By Gillian Slade, Medicine Hat NewsThe number of long-term care beds has actually declined in favour of Assisted Living and details of a new drug plan that was to kick in Jan. 1, 2014 are non-existent, panelists told an audience on Tuesday night.“Premier Alison Redford promised an increase of 1,000 spaces each year for long-term care and that promise has not been kept,” said Noel Somerville, chair of the seniors task force for Public Interest Alberta. “The focus has been finding the cheapest way to care for seniors.”In the last decade the need for long-term care has increased but it’s Assisted Living beds that have been brought on stream,said David Campanella, public policy research manager for the Parkland Institute, University of Alberta.That shift in focus has taken place because there are less regulations for Assisted Living and it provides more options for private for profit operators. It has also meant shifting more of the cost of care onto families, said Campanella.In a bid to discharge seniors in acute care beds in hospitals, some are being placed in Assisted Living, even though they need 24/7 care, because that’s all that is available, said Sandra Azocar executive director for Friends of Medicare.Bill Moore-Kilgannon, executive director of Public Interest Alberta told the audience accounts of seniors living in facilities where they’d not been adequately cared. They’d also been told the rate had increased even though a contract had been signed for a set price. Sometimes staff called an ambulance and then informed the family that the senior could not return.“Choice works only if you have vast resources,” said Moore-Kilgannon.Azocar says tens of millions of taxpayer dollars is going to fund private for-profit companies to build seniors residences.“They can then sell those places and pocket the profit,” said Azocar.The pharmacare program, to be based on a means test, puts Canada in the unique position among developed countries in not providing prescription coverage as part of health care, said Somerville.While it would appear a new program would not be ready to be implemented by January the minister of health has not stated that.“We are totally in the dark,” said Somerville.The meeting in the Medicine Hat Public Library was hosted by Palliser Friends of Medicare.Read the article online at the Medicine Hat News.