Blog | June 05, 2014

Confusing process difficult for patients and families

By Mariam Ibrahim, Edmonton JournalRead the original article on the Edmonton Journal websiteEDMONTON-A review into how Albertans are moved into long- term care facilities has found a patchwork of policies across the province that are applied inconsistently and without adequate input from patients and their families.The Health Quality Council of Alberta investigation into the now-suspended “first available bed” policy showed the province’s health-care system is “consistently incapable of completing the transition in a transparent way” and that the process has proven difficult and confusing for patients and families.In its report — one of two released Thursday looking at continuing care in the province, — the council recommends Alberta Health Services develop a provincewide policy for transitioning people to long-term care. It should include input from patients and families and eliminate any “threatening or punitive” elements such as the existing policy that charges patients $100 per day if they refuse a first available bed, the report says.It also recommends an appeal process be created.Health Minister Fred Horne said Thursday the province will work to implement all recommendations as soon as possible. The health ministry will immediately assume oversight for quality of care, he added.Newly installed Alberta Health Services Chief Executive Officer Vickie Kaminski said the health authority will adopt “thoughtful and transparent” policies about how and where people are placed.“We can’t be doing this to people,” she said. “We have to be doing it with them.”The priority is to place people as close to home as possible, she added. “We’ll do our best to keep couples together whenever possible,” Kaminski said.In April 2013, Alberta Health Services formalized a policy saying the first available long-term bed could be within 100 kilometres of a patient’s first-choice facility, in an attempt to clear a backlog in acute care hospital beds.The policy, suspended a year ago, has been slammed by critics as “divorce by nursing home” because some couples were placed in separate, far-flung facilities.Wildrose seniors critic Kerry Towle said the findings are not surprising.“There are beds out there…but there’s not enough resources going to the right places,” she said.Patients need to be given recourse when they are treated unfairly, she added.“Within the health-care system, there has to be some sort of independent body…that doesn’t have to feel that to reverse a decision they’ll lose their job,” Towle said.Kaminski said AHS will establish an appeal process, but said that need would be reduced by giving patients more choice.“If we are successful at following all the recommendations…people will not need an appeal process because they will be making their own decisions,” she said.But in cases where patients are unhappy, she acknowledged the need for “an independent body or person to be able to look at that,” outside the walls of AHS.The report also recommended the health authority develop better methods for measuring the demand and capacity for available beds.There are currently about 545 people taking up acute care beds in the province while waiting for a long-term care placement, Kaminski said. That doesn’t account for those waiting for a spot while remaining at home.Public Interest Alberta seniors task force chairman Noel Somerville said the report failed to address the underlying lack of public long-term care beds in the province.“The government needs to invest in building enough capacity in a public seniors care system rather than giving millions of dollars to corporations to build lower care assisted-living facilities,” he said in a statement.© Copyright (c) The Edmonton Journal