By Karen Kleiss, Edmonton JournalEDMONTON - Internal government planning documents made public Monday reveal for the first time the full scope of the sweeping changes underway in Albertaâ��s eldercare system.A draft â��concept paperâ�� released by Public Interest Alberta shows the province is changing the rules that govern home care, developing a new â��patient-based fundingâ�� model, revising health service standards and consolidating health and safety inspection protocols for seniors care facilities.Civil servants are also working on a new way to predict demand for seniorsâ�� services, developing new building codes for seniorsâ�� facilities and reviewing the Alberta Aids to Daily Living program, which helps older Albertans pay for medical supplies.All of the work is aimed at creating more â��continuing care centres,â�� which are the centrepiece of Health Minister Fred Horneâ��s plan to fundamentally change the elder-care system so Albertans stay in the same place as they get older, even if they need more care.Currently, people have to move every time their need for care increases.At least four departments are involved in the changes, including municipal Affairs, which has a five-year â��regeneration and renewalâ�� plan for government-owned social and seniors housing.The 15-page document, dated June 20, was not made public. Instead, it was handed out to organizations invited to take part in talks with government. That prompted critics to argue the government is conducting â��closed-door consultations.â��â��Despite months of promises about a new era of transparency, despite promises to listen to Albertans, it is only by accident that we discovered yet another policy for elder care,â�� said Carol Wodak of Continuing Care Watch, who obtained the document.â��Itâ��s no surprise to me to learn there has been extensive consultation behind closed doors with invited industry representatives.…Thatâ��s the way public policy has been developed in Alberta for a very long time.â��Noel Somerville, chairman of Public Interest Albertaâ��s seniors task force, said the continuing care centre model is little more than a business proposal.â��It is designed to off-load the governmentâ��s costs onto those who require medically necessary services, and to enrich insurance companies and facility operators in the process,â�� Somerville said.The unknown author of the concept paper explains that the purpose of the document is to â��outline the continuing care centres concept, which will be validated through consultation.â��But Health Minister Fred Horne said it is an early draft with â��very preliminary ideas.â��â��I havenâ��t approved this version. My officials are…out there talking to people in the system about some of the preliminary thinking on this, before it gets to a decision making table.â��Thatâ��s what I expect them to do, thatâ��s what I asked them to do, and Iâ��m disappointed that others would see this as a way to make news.â��Horne said all Albertans will have a chance to weigh in on the design of the new eldercare system at some point in the future.
By Karen Kleiss, Edmonton [email protected]/ablegreporterThis article was published in the Edmonton Journal on July 16, 2012. Read the full article on the Edmonton Journal website.