This afternoon, the Alberta government announced their latest expenditures in our continuing care system. Unsurprisingly, as per the recommendations made in the Facility-Based Continuing Care review, funding will be allocated to further privatize seniors’ care in Alberta.
In September 2020, as part of the government’s so-called “new approach” to continuing care, they opened a bidding process for private continuing care operators to identify “underutilized spaces” in existing buildings to become publicly-funded, privately-delivered continuing care beds. Today it seems they have ramped up this process, resulting in a promised $204 million over the next three years to expand continuing care capacity by providing government grants to private operators, in an acceleration of the Continuing Care Capital Program.
“This is the same approach we’ve seen time and again from this government,” said Chris Gallaway, Executive Director of Friends of Medicare. “They hand public health care funding over to private companies looking to turn a profit at the expense of quality care for seniors. We can’t keep treating our seniors like commodities.”
While the government has previously stated that the refurbishment and renovation of beds will supposedly be paid for by operators, Friends of Medicare are concerned about the recommendation made in the government’s Facility-Based Continuing Care review which would allow operators to freely increase accommodation fees as they see fit, effectively passing any additional costs directly onto seniors and their families.
Moreover, there was no mention of the levels of care that will be provided at new or “modernized” beds. The government has identified ongoing concerns with seniors needing to stay in hospital due to a lack of beds in the continuing care system, but have yet to acknowledge that the majority of those seniors are awaiting higher levels of care that are currently available in our continuing care system.
“We can’t continue to subsidize a broken system,” said Gallaway. “The need for higher levels of care has been well documented, yet we continue to see this government erode higher-acuity long-term care (LTC) in favour of expanding the more lucrative and under-regulated designated supportive living (DSL) facilities.”
The other focus of today’s press conference was the need for expanded home care services. Unfortunately, the vast majority of home care in Alberta is already under contract to private providers, who employ a precarious workforce of underpaid and often undertrained care workers. Alberta is experiencing chronic staffing shortages throughout our health care system, which have gone largely unaddressed by this government, and home care is no exception.
“Promises to expand continuing care are effectively meaningless without a plan to staff it,” said Gallaway. "Staffing shortages will continue to hurt the delivery of home care until we move to a public delivery model that is funded adequately to attract and retain a stable workforce. Friends of Medicare will continue to call for an end to profit in continuing care, and for it to ultimately be brought under the public umbrella.”
“As has been made devastatingly clear these past two years, we have a responsibility to put seniors before profits. We must ensure all seniors finally have good access to the quality continuing care they need and deserve, now and in the years to come,” concluded Gallaway.
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