In December 2012, Albertans receiving home care services saw their services cut by 15 minutes. Friends of Medicare has now learned that as a result of the changes being made in home care, a further 10 minutes of services will be taken off direct patient care time.
At least one of the Agencies which was awarded home care contracts has advised their workers that due to a new contract, ten minutes of the time workers spend directly on patient services will now be considered 'travel time'. "Simply stated these changes mean that workers will have to leave earlier than their allotted direct patient care time or stay and work for free," said Sandra Azocar, Executive Director Friends of Medicare. "Either way these cuts will be on the backs of patients, front line staff, or both."
Contracting-out of home care services to for-profit corporations has served to create a new class of workers. "We have learned that workers in various agencies have been told not to speak to their clients or media about these changes as they could be charged with 'breach of confidentiality', which is yet another cone of silence being imposed on front-line workers who provide an invaluable service in our communities," stated Azocar.
AHS relies on home care as an integral part of the health system, yet the Alberta government has been privatizing it by stealth to the point where Albertans no longer know who is providing the services. "So far we do know that two of the Toronto-based corporations, CBI Health and Bayshore, will be receiving $371 million in public health dollars. We are waiting to see how much more will be allocated to the other remaining 13 agencies. In 2012, 73% of the home care budget was allocated to private, for-profit agencies, while Home Care within the public system has seen no increase in staff or resources," said Azocar.
"Albertans have grown tired of the lack of transparency and meaningful discourse regarding the direction that this government is taking in terms of our public healthcare system," said Azocar. "We don't want any more meaningless denials of privatization and corporatization of our healthcare. We need transparency to know where our public funds and resources are being allocated, and we want this government to stop acting as a subsidy for private business, as we are clearly seeing in the case of home care."
Friends of Medicare is calling on AHS and the Minister of Health to recognize that these types of cuts to home care services will only postpone an inevitable expense, and it will serve to download the cost onto individuals who are at a vulnerable stage in their lives. In the end, the quality of our home care program will suffer. We need to strengthen our community and home care programs so that those who need assistance to safely remain at home can do so.
Friends of Medicare, along with Concerned Citizens for Home Care, will be hosting a town hall meeting on home care on June 23 at 6:30 pm - Ironworkers Local 720 Hall - 10512 - 122 Street, Edmonton. All concerned citizens are invited to attend.
Sandra Azocar, Executive Director
Friends of Medicare