Blog | February 27, 2014

EDMONTON—Public Interest Alberta is challenging the Redford Government to investigate and stop seniors care facilities and other health facilities that ban, or threaten to ban, people from seeing their loved ones without due process. 

“We accept that health care facilities have to have the ability to assure the safety and care of patients and staff, but they cannot just ban people from seeing their loved ones without a strict process, evidence and guidelines,” says Bill Moore-Kilgannon, Executive Director of Public Interest Alberta. “If the government is not willing to act to empower families with real due process, then we will explore taking legal action to represent the rights of these families to be together.”

“The Alberta Government allows seniors care facility operators to tell people they cannot see their vulnerable loved ones without due process of law”, says Allan Garber, an Edmonton based lawyer with extensive experience in seniors care issues. “I have even been barred from seeing one of my clients and physically forced out of a care facility. People have a constitutional right to be able to meet together, yet our provincial government allows people to be banned without having to provide any reason and with no recourse for families.”

Huguette Hebert was banned for a day from a Covenant Health facility and told that if she did not cooperate that they could ban her forever from seeing her husband. “I wanted to stay in my husband’s room while they were changing him so I could see if his bottom had any sores. I was not interfering or threatening anyone. Now the CEO of Covenant Health has the audacity to say that the only reason they ban people is to protect patients or staff. Well, I think the reason they are abusing their power by banning people is to protect their own bottoms”.

Shauna McHarg has been banned from seeing her father for almost two years and has very restricted visiting time with her mother. Despite successfully appealing to the Ombudsman and the Privacy Commissioner, Covenant Health refuses to release the reasons for her banning and fought this in court last week. “While Covenant Health drags this out and the government does nothing to address this situation, I am not able to be there for my father in the short amount of time that we have left to be together.”

Ruth Adria with Elder Advocates of Alberta Society has been banned from facilities when she is asked by families to meet to discuss concerns of quality of care or abuse. “Some facilities do not want advocates meeting with their patients so they use the Trespass Act to force me out without providing any reason. I was recently told by one staff member who called security that they have my photo in their nursing station with instructions to have me removed if I come to visit any of their patients.”

Dennis Dupuis from St. Paul was banned for a month from seeing his mother who will be 102 years old in May when the facility said he was eating his mother’s food. He tasted the food when his mother refused to eat it and complained about the quality of it. He later had his visiting hours reduced to only one hour a day, when he stopped a staff member who he felt was force feeding his mother. “I have complied with all of the restrictions they have placed on me over the past two years, yet there is no process in place where I can challenge these restrictions that only allow me to visit my mother just one hour a day. How can this be allowed in Canada?”

Public Interest Alberta is asking any person who has been banned or threatened to be banned from a seniors care facility to contact PIA by emailing [email protected] or calling 780 420-0471 so that we can assess the possibility of joint legal action if the Alberta government refuses to change the system to protect the rights of families.