EDMONTON - Friends of Medicare and Public Interest Alberta join organizations from civil society, labour, and senior citizens representing hundreds of thousands of Albertans speaking out against Bill 70: COVID Related Measures Act, which is expected to be voted on by the Legislative Assembly today. Twenty-four (24) organizations have signed an open letter to demand that this legislation not be passed into law because of the dangers it poses to Alberta seniors and their families. The letter was emailed to Premier Kenney, Minister of Health, Tyler Shandro and UCP MLA Richard Gotfried, the sponsor of this bill. The open letter will be tabled today in the Alberta Legislature by MLA Christina Grey, Critic for Labour and Immigration & Official Opposition House Leader.
This legislation will unjustly provide a liability shield for health services facilities—including continuing care operators who are facing lawsuits over illness or death due to exposure to COVID-19. The signatory organizations of this open letter are extremely concerned that this law will prevent families from being able to seek answers and hold care homes responsible for negligence of their loved ones.
“Alberta seniors have suffered decades of privatization, and government inaction in our continuing care, resulting in a chronically understaffed and under-resourced system that far too often fails to provide necessary care even at the best of times,” said Sandra Azocar, Executive Director of Friends of Medicare. “They didn’t stand a chance against COVID-19.”
“Friends of Medicare and other seniors advocates have long called for legislation to mandate much-needed staff-to-patient ratios, to improve transparency and accountability in the private care sector, and to otherwise finally end the issues that have too long plagued the continuing care system, and which have been laid bare as a result of this pandemic,” continued Azocar. “But instead of working to protect residents, this government has opted to expand protections for private care operators via Bill 70.”
“Bill 70 isn’t in the public interest – it’s a gift to the lobbyists from the for-profit care industry,” said Bradley Lafortune, Executive Director of Public Interest Alberta. “Time and time again, the Kenney government demonstrates its loyalty rests with private interests and the wealthy, at the expense of the vulnerable in our province.”
“Where is the legislation protecting continuing care residents?” added Lafortune. “We have been loud and clear about what changes are urgently needed to protect people living in care homes, and to make sure they’re getting the care they need and deserve. It’s crucial that the grim lessons offered by the COVID-19 pandemic not be ignored by government. The ongoing public health crisis unfolding before us has shown us, in the starkest terms, we need systemic improvements in our continuing care system now.”
“To think that families who have endured the potentially preventable illness or loss of a loved one could now, thanks to Bill 70, be denied their chance to seek answers and accountability is nothing short of betrayal.” said Azocar. “All throughout this pandemic, seniors have continued to suffer so that the companies meant to be protecting them could continue to profit. We owe it to residents and their loved ones to ensure that those responsible can be held to account. Alberta seniors deserve so much better.”