Blog | November 12, 2013

By Susan Zielinski - Red Deer Advocate, November 08, 2013Accessibility and quality of care for Alberta seniors is on the decline while privatization, off-loading of care onto family, and cutbacks by the province are on the rise, according to a new report from Parkland Institute.Sandra Azocar, Friends of Medicare’s executive director, said in reaction to the report — From Bad to Worse: Residential elder care in Alberta — the Redford government said it is very happy with the work its doing to provide choices to Albertans.“Instead of having a public system, we have created a corporate culture where this government has become a subsidy for corporations,” said Azocar at a seniors care meeting organized by Friends of Medicare, Public Interest Alberta and Parkland Institute at the Snell Auditorium at Red Deer Public Library on Thursday night.The meeting attracted about 50 people.The groups joined forces for a November speaking tour and will visit 11 communities across Alberta.Earlier on Thursday they stopped in Sundre.“When we had Premier Klein, we were quite aware of what was happening to our health care.He was very honest about the fact that he wanted to privatize health care.Since that time the government has been very stealthy in terms of privatization,” Azocar said.Shannon Stunden Bower, research director with Parkland Institute and co-author of the report, said between 1999 to 2009, private long-term care facilities in the province had an average investment return of just over two per cent and private assisted-living facilities had a nine per cent average return. During the same period, the American stock market had an average return of just over one per cent.“These relatively high rates of return have translated into significant profits. The residential elder care industry made nearly $100 million in Alberta over the decade. Private long-term care facilities accumulated over $58 million and the much small assisted-living sector enjoyed profits of over $35 million,” Stunden Bower said.Those profits are made by spending less on patient care which includes staffing, pharmaceuticals and medical supplies, she said.“In 2009, for instance in assisted living, for-profit operations expended nearly $47 less on patient care for each resident every day than not-for-profit facilities. In long-term care that same year, public facilities spent $71 more on direct care per resident per day than for-profit facilities.”The report says Alberta for-profit facilities fell short of the staffing benchmark associated with reasonable quality elder care by well over 90 minutes of care per resident per day and a significant gap exists between staffing levels and levels that would ensure dignity and comfort.Parkland Institute recommends expanding Canada’s public health care system to include institutional and home-based elder care, improving staffing levels, phasing out private for-profit elder care and the creation of a provincial elders’ advocate to monitor care and report to the legislature.For its report, the institute used quantitative data from Statistics Canada’s Residential Care Facilities Survey and qualitative data from the reports of Alberta’s Health Facilities Review Committee. It also gathered information from government and industry representatives, labour unions, seniors’ advocates, and front-line workers.The Parkland Institute is a non-partisan public policy research institute in the Faculty of Arts at the University of Alberta.From Bad to Worse is available for download on the Parkland website at the article online at the Red Deer Advocate.