Huge corporate profits raise questions about privatization of seniors careEDMONTON—Public Interest Alberta has released documents obtained through a freedom of information request that raise a number of serious issues and questions about the Conservative government’s policy of funding corporations to provide seniors care. The documents provide an insight into the very close relationship between the corporate seniors-care industry and the Alberta government and their development of a new continuing care policy that has not yet been released. The government and key industry leaders held meetings for over a year to make “longer-term system renewal and an overarching provincial framework for the future of continuing care.”(p 132) Unfortunately, the minutes and even the agendas of these meeting were redacted from the FOIPP document, so it is not possible to know what policy changes the industry reps were proposing. “I find it deeply troubling that the government would establish a closed door forum with corporate industry reps to set policy on Alberta’s continue care policy for seniors and will not reveal what was said at those meetings,” said Noel Somerville, Chairperson of PIA Seniors Task Force. “If the government is reviewing its seniors’ care policy then this needs to be done in public and it needs to involve the Albertans who will be most impacted by these changes – the seniors of Alberta.” The majority of the FOIPP documents are the applications from three corporations to the Affordable Supportive Living Initiative (ASLI) program that resulted in over $36.5 million in government capital funding going to these corporations. While none of the requested final contracts was released, some of the applications did provide detailed expenditure and revenue projections for the operations of these centres. This information reveals the massive profits the companies expect to make on the accommodation costs averages around 27% per year. This works out to an average projected profit of over $5500 per bed/ year. To make matters worse, the proposals revealed that they also project to make a profit off the contract for health care services from Alberta Health Services. While most projected profit margins on the AHS contracts were in the range of 3%, one was as high as 15%. “While many seniors and their families are struggling to get quality seniors care in facilities that often have too few or poorly-qualified staff, it seems the government is willing to give millions of public dollars into these huge corporate profits,” said Bill Moore-Kilgannon, Executive Director of Public Interest Alberta. “Certainly Albertans have a right to know if these corporate profits are resulting in poorer quality of care of our seniors.” The documents also raise a number of questions about the long-term implications of having corporations control and own a growing percentage of our seniors care system. In particular:
- Depending on for-profit providers who renegotiate the terms and conditions of their contracts with AHS every 5 years over a 30 year contract puts AHS in a very vulnerable position on cost control ( a risk that will be greater as the for-profits provide higher numbers of vital seniors beds),
- While the projections of the annual operating profits are very large, the real profits come when the buildings are paid off, and the real estate is sold providing the owners with a significant profit that includes the millions in public money provided to these corporations.