Blog | July 05, 2012

Letter to the Editor printed in Edmonton JournalRe: "Workers at third care home strike; Devonshire Care Centre staff want better wages, benefits," the Journal, June 29.Ian West, vice-president of Park Place Seniors Living Inc., says the labour unrest at two of his company's facilities in Edmonton - Hardisty Care Centre and Devonshire Care Centre - is not about getting a deal for staff but about pressuring the government to put more money into the system. He could not be more wrong.The provincial government's activity-based funding model provides equal funding to all continuing care operators, whether they are public, not-for-profit or private, for-profit. Health Minister Fred Horne confirmed this during question period on May 28.Public and not-for-profit operators use this funding to provide caregivers with industry-standard wages. By doing this, they can retain staff, attract new staff and offer stable care.Some private, for-profit operators, like Park Place Seniors Living, take this public funding but pay their staff less to pocket more money. Their goal is profit, not quality of care.West further distorts the picture by claiming Alberta Health Services turned to third-party providers to rein in "out-of-control" labour costs. What Park Place Seniors Living is doing is decreasing its labour costs to boost its profits. The money provided by the public is the same whether an operator pays minimum wage or the industry standard. Park Place is exploiting taxpayers.Many not-for-profit facilities, including Bethany Care Society and Good Samaritan Society, pay the industry standard with the same funding model. Also, a number of private, for-profit companies pay the industry standard, including Touchmark at Wedgewood and Venta Care Centre.Clearly, funding is sufficient. What's not sufficient is how government regulates this funding in some for-profit settings so the money goes where it's supposed to.By paying its staff less, Park Place puts seniors' quality of care at risk by being less attractive to much-needed nursing and support staff.Protests at for-profit facilities are just as much about stable quality care as they are about fair wages. The goal is not to pressure the government to put more money into the system. The goal is for private, for-profit seniors' care facilities to use the funding they get from taxpayers the way it's supposed to be used - caring for Alberta's seniors.By Guy Smith, president, Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, EdmontonThis letter to the editor was published in the Edmonton Journal on July 5, 2012. Read the letter on the Edmonton Journal website.