By Fram Dinshaw, The Hinton VoiceSeniors’ care is on the agenda at a Sept. 28 public forum at the Hinton Legion that will discuss key issues from drug plans to home care.The province-wide speaking tour is starting off in Hinton in an era of provincial budget cuts to care services in what the Seniors Task Force section of Public Interest Alberta (PIA), a province-wide advocacy group organizing the forums, says are broken promises made by the government to seniors.“We want to provide information of what we’re hearing across the province, educate people about changes in home care, long-term care, and the new seniors’ drug plan taking place on Jan. 1, 2014,” said Bill Moore- Kilgannon, executive director of PIA.“Hinton has been, for many years, an example known in our province due to the fact it used to have a long- term care facility that was converted to an assisted-living facility. Consequentially what happened is when you get rid of higher-level nursing and medical care that’s required under the Nursing Home Act, it means that seniors in Hinton are unable to get access to medical care available in long-term care facilities.”He recalled one Hinton family who said on CBC a few months ago that a lack of local beds left seeking care out of town their only option.“For families it’s an incredibly difficult emotional situation,” said Moore-Kilgannon.According to an Edmonton Journal article dated June 5, 2013, he said that Premier Alison Redford broke her election promise to build 1,000 long- term care beds.“Instead what we’re seeing is a cutting of long-term care beds. The Provincial Capital Plan sees a cut of 1,700 long-term care beds over the next four years. At the same time they’re giving millions of dollars in taxpayers’ money to corporations for assisted-living facilities. Most of the money for seniors’ care is going to private for-profit corporations,” said Moore-Kilgannon.He says if a senior is rich and relatively healthy, assisted living facilities may indeed be the best option, but for those in the early stages of diseases such as Alzheimer’s or dementia, home care is often more appropriate, but this, too, is facing cuts. According to Moore- Kilgannon’s figures, there used to be 80 home care service providers across the province, but this number has been cut to 13 after the province re- tendered contracts, despite a public outcry. As a result, seniors are ending up in hospital and care givers lose their jobs.A PIA position paper dated July 9, 2013 states that “The cost of Home Care delivery should be borne by the government to the extent required to ensure that all health care services are provided without charge to the patient.”“Home care is a really critical aspect of our healthcare system that saves us money and keeps seniors at home whereas normally they’d have to go to a facility. But now the government’s cut $18 million on the backs of seniors,” said Moore- Kilgannon.A third issue facing seniors in Hinton and across Alberta is drug costs. Currently, a prescription costs a maximum of $25, but under incoming provincial regulations costs will- be means-tested, similar to British Columbia’s model. Under the new system, seniors would pay a certain percentage of costs before health insurance kicked in.While no more details have been released, Moore-Kilgannon said that the government would save $180 million under a new drug model and that “the insurance industry loves this.” However, someone on a fixed income paying hundreds of dollars a month for prescription drugs would see it differently.Other topics on the agenda are provincial seniors’ benefits, seniors’ school property tax assistance program, first available bed policy, corporatization of delivery, and the Nursing Home Act. The forum runs from 1-4 pm. For more info call Lynda Jonson at (780) 817-0043. — Hinton, AlbertaRead the article at the Hinton Voice.