Challenge Parties to Support Quality Public CareEDMONTON—Representatives from numerous seniors organizations launched an advocacy campaign today that will make the privatization of seniors care a key issue in the upcoming provincial election.The member organizations of Public Interest Alberta's (PIA) Seniors Task Force were particularly frustrated that in a letter dated February 7th, Minister of Seniors, George VanderBurg, stated that the government is still considering “removing the limit or cap on the amount paid to long-term care facility operators (by seniors and their families) for accommodation services…to enable industry to build greater capacity.”“If public healthcare is important for Albertans, why does the Redford government plan to turn long- term care over to corporations?” asks Noel Somerville, Chairperson of PIA's Seniors Task Force. “The Minister's letter says they are 'reviewing the benefits and implications of removing the cap', but they are clearly only listening to the corporations, not Alberta seniors and their families. It is obviously designed as an opportunity for corporations to make even more money, rather than an effort to meet the growing needs of our seniors.”Bernice Rempel, Edmonton Chair of the Canadian Association of Retired Persons (CARP) says, “all political parties need to come out clearly in favour of investing more in publicly delivered home care. Seniors want to stay in their own homes. This option ultimately saves the government money. In order to effectively operate the Home Care option there must be priority given by government to investment in a body of well-trained and professionally supervised home care attendants. Financial compensation for this work group should reflect the physical, emotional and mentally taxing aspects of the care delivery in stand alone locations.”“Despite the fact that this government has been talking about addressing this crisis for years, the Minister of Seniors states that there are still 1500 Albertans awaiting space in continuing care,” says Baldwin Reichwein, speaking for ACSW’s (Retired Social Workers Group) and Whitemud Citizens for Public Health. “You don't have to have a PhD in demographics to see that we need to build more long-term care beds to respond to the growing seniors population and to know that this is impacting on our acute care hospitals. Yet this government is sticking to Minister Liepert's 2008 strategy of not building more long-term care hospital beds, and is about to make matters even worse.”“Rather than build the nursing homes required, the government has been subsidizing the private sector to build, own and operate lower standard of care assisted living facilities,” says Gary Pool with the Alberta Council on Aging. “For example, this government recently gave $48 million of public money, mostly to corporations (six out of the nine projects,) to fund 511 supportive living beds – and only 30 are long-term care beds. Not only are we giving taxpayer money for these corporations to build their properties, it now looks like the Redford government is set to allow these corporations to charge seniors whatever they want.”
“Seniors and their families are not going to sit back and allow this government to quietly turn our seniors care system over to the corporate market place,” said Bill Moore-Kilgannon, Executive Director of Public Interest Alberta. “We will be reaching out to people of all ages who want to expand our public healthcare system to provide the quality public care that our seniors and people with disabilities need and deserve."The Seniors Task Force, along with many organizations, is involved in hosting the “Beyond Acute Care” conference, featuring US Consumer Advocate Ralph Nader on February 24th and other highly regarded international and national speakers on February 25th.
The Seniors Task Force will also be using their extensive network around the province to distribute print materials outlining positive recommendations that would significantly improve our seniors care system and make it more accountable. The seniors groups are going to be mobilizing their members to get involved in the upcoming provincial election and challenge candidates from all parties to show their support for public seniors care which is accessible to all Alberta seniors, not just the wealthy. -30- Media Contacts:Noel Somerville (780) 452-1846Bill Moore-Kilgannon (780) 420-0471 (W) or (780) 993-3736 (C) To view a copy of the Minster of Seniors Letter, click here (PDF).To learn more about the campaign, click here.