By Trevor Robb, Edmonton ExaminerA gathering of Alberta seniors groups, including members from the Canadian Association of Retired Persons (CARP), Alberta Council on Aging, and Public Interest Alberta (PIA), discussed their concerns over the Alberta government’s plans to de-regulate and privatize senior care facilities.Seniors are particularly upset after a letter dated Feb. 7, 2012, from the Minister of Seniors George VanderBurg’s office, stating that the government is considering “removing the limit or cap on the amount paid to long-term care facility operators.”“The insurance industry is lobbying for a more corporatized senior care system,” says Bill Moore-Kilgannon, executive director of PIA. “They are one of many players out there who are trying to influence the public policy on this, mostly behind closed doors.”To help inform Alberta seniors, PIA has created a seniors task force headed by Noel Somerville. He worries that the level of care for seniors will go down while costs will go up.“Seniors are the people who actually built the current health care system,” says Sommerville. “They feel really betrayed when the government is trying to turn them over to the tender mercy of private corporations.Sommerville says that an insurance company approached the Alberta Council on Aging selling long-term care insurance on the basis that a new, high-end private facility is being built in Edmonton where the cost of accommodations would be $6,500 a month.“Right now, homecare is totally inadequate. Seniors want to stay in their own homes, the government wants to keep them in their own homes, but they’re not providing the kind of home care support that’s going to make it work.”Minister VanderBurg argues from a different viewpoint and says that while accommodations for seniors in health care facilities may be a mixed bag of private and public non-profit organizations, the care itself is issued by Alberta Health Services and the government has no plans in changing that.“The medical care that’s in our facilities is publicly paid for and will continue to be,” says VanderBurg. The health piece is provided and paid for by Alberta Heath Services. There are no plans at all to privatize the health service.”Under the current regulated rate, the cost for a private and a semi-private room costs seniors $1,700 and public rooms start at $1,395. However, there are very few facilities that have public rooms; the majority of available rooms are semi-private (two persons) and private rooms (individual). “To me, there is room for all and I’m not going to be close minded to anything that would provide good care for our parents, our grandparents and our loved ones,” says VanderBurg.FIVE POINT PLAN: The seniors task force is proposing a five-point plan to ensure that quality of care for Alberta seniors remains high and fair: 1. Increase the level of homecare. 2. Strengthening the Nursing Home Act (a piece of legislation in Alberta that stipulates quality of service in care facilities). 3. Building more long-term care facilities. 4. Establishment of a seniors advocate to work alongside government. 5. Make seniors care facilities more democratic by establishing ‘patient-family councils’ not unlike the notion of school councils.
By Trevor Robb, Edmonton ExaminerThis article was published in the Edmonton Examiner on February 27, 2012. Read the full article on the Edmonton Examiner website.